Three Democrats in District 9 primary raceWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Graham Veysey is racking up the miles driving from the Cleveland area to Toledo, hitting up Downtown businesses and making early morning stops at the Jeep plant.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur is canvassing Cleveland, her campaign ads airing on Cleveland television. Dennis Kucinich signs have sprung up in yards across Toledo and the candidate himself visits at least three times a week.
The much debated redistricting will become reality in a little more than a week; Ohio’s congressional districts will officially shrink by two. The new map has pitted two nationally renowned Democrats against each other to represent the sliver-shaped region that wraps around Lake Erie. And don’t forget Veysey — the 29-year-old documentary firm owner who wants to take a fresh perspective to Washington, D.C.
Super Tuesday is March 6. Democrats, you’re going to have to choose.
The Lucas County Democratic Party backed Kaptur and the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party backed Kucinich. Both candidates have served in Congress for decades and both have brought millions of dollars to their districts. But Veysey, who has never held a public office, wants to upset the “status quo.”
He has never run for office.
“I don’t think that there’s a ladder,” Veysey said. “Like if you want to be this you have to start there. There’s no secret formula.”
Veysey criticized Kaptur and Kucinich for holding office for so long, pointing to Toledo and Cleveland’s poverty rates as an example of government ineffectiveness. The increase in Toledo’s poverty rate has been recorded as the sharpest in the country.
Kaptur, who has represented Toledo since 1983, said Congress moves in gradual steps.
“If you look at something like the World War II Memorial, it took us 17 years to actually finally dedicate that,” she said. “For someone to say something is going to happen quickly, that is not the pace at which the institution of this country moves.”
Kaptur sponsored the bill to get the memorial up and running. The process of introducing the bill, setting public hearings, seeking conditions for approval, raising money and actually commencing the build for the memorial is just one example why representatives need experience and perseverance to make changes, she said.
Completing the Veterans Glass City Skyway, an infrastructure project Kaptur started, took 16 years.
“If someone thinks it’s easy to do this, they have no concept of what the job requires,” she added.
Veysey doesn’t think the job will be easy, but he thinks his time working outside of Washington gives him perspective. Shortly after he graduated from Bates College in Maine, the young entrepreneur helped launch a television company called “Plum.” The venture started with five employees and one station and has since increased to include about 100 people and eight channels, he said.
He now runs a documentary company that makes brief films about education, the environment and energy topics. But his business ventures go beyond the television screen. He helped convert an old firehouse into a hopping commercial space, now home to an information technology firm, coffee roasters, his documentary business and a construction group. Years prior, he helped to morph that had sat vacant for nearly 10 years into an urban farm.
“I took 36 core samples of the soil — I filled my living room with dirt to make sure that it was feasible to make a farm there,” he said. “Now it’s got over 150 varieties of fruits and veggies and it is employing a variety of workers and it’s turned this piece of land into a vibrant space.”
As for Toledo’s vacant buildings? His dream is to turn District 9 into a “cloud capital,” or a hub for data and technology servers. Fill old buildings with servers that back up systems such as credit card readers, he said, and workforce would be needed.
Veysey said his actions exhibit his closeness to the cities’ needs, something he said his opponents have disregarded because they’ve been more in touch with Washington. He particularly takes issue with Kucinich’s campaign activity. The congressman ran for the Presidential Democratic primary in 2004 and 2008.
“Rather than paying attention to his district, he’s out galavanting around the world,” Veysey said. “He had one foot out the door when he was running for president.”
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars motivated Kucinich’s bid for presidency. He rejects the notion that it distracted his attention from his district because the wars hit home not only in terms of soldiers lost but in terms of debt.
“The war in Iraq has cost my district billions of dollars. The long-term costs to the country will be $5 trillion,” he said. “That war has been a disaster financially and morally and anyone who doesn’t understand the urgency back in 2002 that I felt in challenging President Bush’s war, anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of trying to stop the war by ending the funding couldn’t possibly understand the impact it’s had on our national resources and priorities.”
Kucinich has consistently voted against defense bills. As a leader of the anti-war effort in Congress from the start, he said congresspeople should not give lip service in opposition while continuing to permit war funding. Each vote is basically a vote to continue the war, he said.
The defense topic is one of the biggest dividers between he and Kaptur.
“We have to have a balanced approach,” Kaptur said. “To never vote for the defense of this country is both a curious and irresponsible position.”
Another divide, upon which Kucinich and Veysey are united, is the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, first proposed in 2001, would have granted conditional permanent residency to illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors and graduated from U.S. high schools.
Four years of higher education or completing two years in the military would earn them temporary residency for six years. Veysey and Kucinich have criticized Kaptur for her vote against the act, whivh was voted down last year.
She said the bill could have unfairly singled out the parents of the minors or college students seeking residency.
Immigration policy hits home in Ohio because of the growing number of EB-5 Regional Centers in the state. The EB-5 visa program allows wealthy foreign investors to inject a specific business endeavor with either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on the region, and earn permanent residency in just two years. They have to prove that they’ve created 10 jobs directly or indirectly to secure residency. Regional Growth Partnership confirmed that the group is working on putting together a center in Toledo. There are four others in the state.
Veysey sees this program as an opportunity to stimulate local economies while enticing innovative people to stay in the region. Kucinich said the U.S. should be careful about these types of monetary incentives.
“The ability to be able to come to the United States should not simply be a matter of how much money you have,” he said.
Veysey has consistently charged that his opponents are career politicians. But Kaptur said her role in the House brought home a lot of help to her constituents.
She secured funding for the University of Toledo’s Center for Solar Electricity and Hydrogen for a $23.6 million project in technology development. Another one of her top projects was backing juvenile justice programs in Northwest Ohio with $2.1 million. She helped fund the City of Toledo’s Police Youth Athletic Center with $1.7 million and brought millions to Toledo’s Wastewater Sewer Treatment Plant.
She also started a senior nutrition program that gives low-income seniors money to use at farmers markets.
She said she is proud of “the progress we’ve been able to make together against very difficult odds and our ability to achieve real results and improvements across our region.”
Kucinich said his experience in protecting Cleveland would carry over to Toledo, because both cities have large health care systems and factories. He is responsible for halting the closure of several community hospitals by taking public protesting to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, which ordered that the hospitals had to stay open until bidders bought them. He is credited with saving a steel mill, bringing a new Social Security office to the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood and saving a library by securing federal and state grant money, according to his campaign site.
The representative rejects the “career politician” label. He said he has made decisions that defy typical political moves, such as refusing to sell Cleveland’s publicly-owned utility company in the 1970s.
“They’re not talking about me,” Kucinich said, “I put my career on the line when I was mayor to save a municipal electrical system.”