Experience was the name of the game in Tuesday’s Democratic debate for New York's 22nd Congressional District seat between state Sen. John Mannion and DeWitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood. For Mannion, it was about his time in the state Legislature and long tenure as a teacher. For Klee Hood, it was about her time in the Air Force and as a local politician and woman.

Both touted those experiences significantly in the debate hosted by Spectrum News 1 as both garner to be the one to take on Republican Rep. Brandon Williams in November in what is already one of the most closely watched House races in the country.

“I’m battle-tested. I’ve won tough elections,” Mannion said.

“Republicans know that Brandon Williams is most weak when we nominate a veteran without ties to Albany and a woman in this fight against women’s rights,” Klee Hood said.

It’s on women’s rights and abortion that both attacked Williams on.

Klee Hood said she had to seek abortion care when serving in the military and that she is “hellbent” on restoring the rights under Roe v. Wade that were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2022.

Mannion said he is supported by Planned Parenthood and supported legislation to protect women and their providers in two legislative sessions. He was also a co-sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would bar discrimination based on “gender identity.”

Both also said Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“Our immigration crisis did not happen at our southern border,” Klee Hood said. “It started back at the countries and communities where our legal asylum seekers are fleeing. So from this position, it’s a foreign policy effort. We need to be looking at it through a foreign policy lens.”

“I do think we need to monitor the number of individuals that are moving through our border portals and also across the border,” Mannion said. “And I do think that that needs to be part of that comprehensive reform. I actually think we need a sub-department to be constantly monitoring that.”

When it comes to local issues, both want to ensure the investment of Micron into the region produces results.

“We have already taken action and Micron has shown they are invested in this,” Mannion said, touting his work on the state’s “green CHIPS” act, a $10 billion plan for encouraging clean and renewable forms of energy in chip making.

“What we need is a representative to make sure that this project has every tool and every dollar that they need,” Mannion added.

Klee Hood said this needs to be more than just a ribbon-cutting and that the devil is in the details.

“If Micron is to succeed here in Central New York, it must be because Central New Yorkers who have lived here for generations are succeeding as well,” she said. “We must ensure that Micron is sticking to the standards they set to, but more importantly, giving back to the community.”

Regarding the Interstate 81 project, Mannion supports the concept of mixed-use buildings on the 24 acres that removing the viaduct in the city of Syracuse will open up, but said more needs to be done in the affordable housing space.

“We have to make sure there is robust affordable housing in that location. I’ve been proud to support projects within the state to add additional affordable housing within the city of Syracuse when I represented it for my first two years in office, and that’s what we need to do in this project,” Mannion said.

“The reality is we’re not addressing the concerns of the communities affected right now," Klee Hood said. "I would love to know what does the housing looks like for the families who have been living there for two to three generations. Where are they being offered housing? Is it going to be at or better than the conditions than they have right now?”

The candidates also discussed climate change, cryptocurrency, the pros and cons of the current state of the economy and how to address poverty in the district’s cities.

The 22nd Congressional District is made up of all of Onondaga and Madison counties, as well as parts of Cayuga, Cortland and Oneida counties.

Primary Election Day is June 25. Early voting runs through June 23.


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