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Manning’s determination worked

My routine each morning is to check my phone for any news overnight. Saturday morning, to my shock, my Twitter feed contained a post from Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder about the sudden death of state Rep. Don Manning the previous night.

Within about two minutes, Editor Brenda Linert texted me asking if I saw that news about Manning. I sent her Householder’s statement and got to work on an article about Manning.

While it was difficult to write because of how sad Manning’s passing is, it was also somewhat easy as I’ve known him for several years.

I first met Manning when he unsuccessfully ran for Trumbull County clerk of courts in 2000. Manning would run for many elected offices and lose. A lesser person would have quit after the first or second loss, public service was important to Manning, and he kept running despite setbacks.

This list could be incomplete, but I remember Manning being a candidate for Mecca Township trustee, U.S. Congress, Trumbull County commissioner, Mahoning County commissioner and Ohio House.

The 2016 Ohio House race wasn’t very competitive. He lost to then-incumbent Democrat John Boccieri by 10,593 votes, a 16.88 percent margin of defeat.

Manning ran in 2017 for New Middletown Village Council and barely won his first election. Of seven candidates for four seats, Manning finished fourth with 205 votes, edging Mark Lavelle, who finished fifth with 199 votes. But a win is a win.

Manning filed to run again in 2018 for the Ohio House 59th District seat. This time it was an open position with Boccieri seeking — it turned out to be a failed bid — to return to the state Senate. Manning’s challenger was Poland Township Trustee Eric C. Ungaro, the Democratic nominee who beat Boardman Trustee Larry Moliterno in his party’s primary.

Given Manning’s track record, I didn’t give him much of a chance of winning.

But with strong financial backing from House Republicans who sent mailers accusing Ungaro “and his family” of being “tied to the corrupt, rigged system that has failed the Mahoning Valley for decades,” and changing political trends in the 59th District, Manning won.

You couldn’t describe his victory as overwhelming. He beat Ungaro by 375 votes, 0.7 of a percent. But again a win is a win.

One thing about Manning is he was always respectful, responsive and helpful to me and quickly became a dedicated legislator.

Manning genuinely cared about the Mahoning Valley and often collaborated with Democratic officeholders. He didn’t have to as Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the state Legislature, but Manning told me it was in the best interests of the area and the state for him to work with Democrats.

I remember how proud Manning was of his accomplishments in the state House including having his first bill signed into law in December 2019 by Gov. Mike DeWine. The bill created the Ohio Children’s Behavioral Network, which brings together a group of experts to develop evidence and outcome-based solutions to improve the mental health of children and young adults, and reduce suicides.

He sought to help constituents upset that they could lose their property through eminent domain to Mill Creek MetroParks and others who didn’t want to lose busing in the middle of a school year.

He was honored by the Ohio Nurses Association as Legislator of the Year for sponsoring a bill that passed the House blocking hospitals from using mandatory overtime for nurses as a condition of employment. His fiancee is a nurse and his daughter is in nursing school.

He received criticism for sponsoring a bill that would require school districts to notify parents of how they could keep their children from receiving required vaccinations. Manning told me he wasn’t an anti-vaxxer and that his children had received vaccinations. But he said he wanted to provide the information to parents. The bill never received a vote.

Even though he won a very close race, Democrats struggled greatly to find someone to challenge Manning in this year’s election.

Rejected by several other potential candidates, Democrats backed Chris Stanley of Canfield, a Youngstown city school teacher and author.

For the first time ever, Manning was the clear favorite in an election.

The Ohio House Republican Caucus will select someone to fill out the rest of Manning’s term and replace him on the November ballot.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

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