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EDITORIAL: Gwyn Mannion made a contest, a contest

— What is generally referred to as an off-year election could have been even less interesting in the town of Manlius — had Gwyn Mannion not made a run for county legislator.

Mannion, a Democrat, sought the District 10 County Legislator position against three-term incumbent Kevin Holmquist, a Republican. Theirs was the only contested race in the town of Manlius, where seven Republican town officials sought re-election unchallenged.

It was Mannion’s first run for public office, and the odds seemed stacked against her in a town where Republicans dominate local government.

But she went for it. And we’re glad she did.

Mannion — a mother, engineer and active volunteer in the community — brought color to an otherwise colorless race. She spoke openly about her qualms with the legislature, the fighting going on between County Legislators and the County Executive — “I found it to be so childish,” she told Eagle columnist Walt Shepperd.

And she wasn’t afraid to speak honestly about her campaign experience, or her expectations for the off-year election.

“Most people don’t want you to knock on their door,” she told Shepperd, “and it will be a low turnout. It’s terrible.”

More literally, the color Mannion brought to the local election could be seen in her campaign signs, whose blue font over bright yellow background provided sharp contrast to the red, white and blue signs of the town’s seven uncontested Republican candidates.

And if not for Mannion’s run for District 10, the sea of campaign signs would have seemed truly excessive — though we’re not convinced the high number of campaign signs promoting uncontested candidates wasn’t just that.

The turnout could be called terrible, as Mannion was just to predict, but it could have been worse. More than 5,500 of the 10th District’s roughly 20,000 came out to vote for either Mannion or Holmquist.

If that number seems small, imagine how low the turnout could have been had there not been a contested race.

Mannion lost the election by just 546 votes, garnering 45 percent support to Holmquist’s 55 percent. The loss, though surely frustrating for Mannion and her supporters, is insignificant when compared to the victory of inspiring participation and interest in the town of Manlius election.

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