Even campaign staffers from the rival camps acknowledge Veysey will be a factor in the race.
Steve Fought, a strategist and spokesman for Ms. Kaptur’s campaign recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he believes Veysey may hurt both veteran Congressional representatives.
“I think he'll cut into both,” Fought said to the Plain Dealer. “He'll cut into part of the anti-Kucinich vote. He'll also cut into some of the more traditional, reflective Democratic vote. I think it's a wash.”
Veysey has used his youth as a selling point in his campaign and to set himself apart from the two incumbents.
“It’s not just a generational difference, but policy differences,” Veysey told La Prensa in an interview following a Toledo debate.
Veysey definitely drew the ire of Ms. Kaptur during a debate by referring to her and Kucinich as “Creatures of Congress.”
“I take offense at that last comment,” she fired back. “I don’t appreciate the disparaging remarks about the legislative branch.”
The 29-year old Cleveland entrepreneur is not shy about addressing political issues that affect the Latino community along Ohio’s NorthCoast—a group some political analysts believe will decide the March primary.
In an interview following the Toledo debate—the fifth such event in five days—Veysey outlined his views on the DREAM Act, immigration, and other important issues affecting Latinos. None of those topics came up during the televised Toledo debate Friday evening.
Veysey said he “would champion” the DREAM Act in Congress if elected, saying it should be reintroduced in the House, where it passed in late 2010. Lacking the 60 necessary votes to prevent a filibuster, the Senate leadership declined to place the bipartisan legislation— which would provide educational opportunities for the children of undocumented immigrants—for vote.
“Despite Ms. Kaptur voting against it, we should push it in the Senate so that we actually can have a DREAM Act that’s a reality,” he said.
Veysey stated without the DREAM Act, we are “investing with our tax dollars, then turning our backs” on young people whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children to seek a better life.
Veysey also stated Congress should pass the Startup Act, which he said has bipartisan support, but not from his two primary opponents.
While the act’s main focus centers on startup businesses that require heavy infusions of capital to create jobs, there is a component of the legislation that would benefit immigrants with visas. The Startup Act proposes to welcome immigrants capable of building high-growth companies to the United States by providing “entrepreneur visas” and green cards for those with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“If you’ve got capital, you’re looking for an extension on your visa, and you’re willing to hire American workers, you can stay in this country,” he explained. “It’s not just making sense because it’s the right thing to do. We’re a nation of immigrants. It makes sense economically because we can create more American jobs and bring more dollars to this economy.”
Veysey stated the federal government also must address comprehensive immigration reform.
“I hate the term ‘alien’ and unfortunately, you hear that term thrown around often,” he said. “The truth is, we are a nation of immigrants. We need comprehensive immigration reform all throughout the system. You look at kids who come into this country as infants: they’re going to get kicked out after we invest in them with our public high schools, colleges, and universities.”
Veysey stated there must be a consistent path to citizenship, citing his own grandfather as “somebody who came to this country as a non-citizen who worked to get that path to citizenship and died a proud American.”
“We need to open the doors so that we have sensible immigration policy so that people who want to contribute to our society can,” he said.
“I think we need to give undocumented workers that pathway to citizenship; that we’ve all got an ability to play by the rules, and be a system where they can contribute to society. Right now we are ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ We need to focus on a solution. We have people at our borders dying trying to get into this country. If we had a sensible approach, you wouldn’t have them giving the ultimate sacrifice to try to come to America to live the American Dream.”
“The NorthCoast is the new Ninth District and it’s leveraging the $10 billion economic engine that is Lake Erie in creating the digital belt, the vacation belt, the NASA belt, where we’re putting more people to work,” he said. “Because that’s what government can do—create that atmosphere of public-private partnership to help to create jobs.”
Ohio City Farm Project
Veysey pointed out he started “one of the largest urban farms in America.” He was project manager in 2010 when the Ohio City Farm was established in a West Side neighborhood in Cleveland on six acres of unbuildable, remediated land. A housing development was demolished there in 1999.
The project was designed as more than a place to grow fresh food, but to serve as an economic development project for the neighborhood. Produce raised on the urban farm creates income for recent immigrants and other farmers, variety for customers seeking local food at the nearby West Side Market, and increased access to local food for residents of public housing, who would receive a discount.
Ms. Kaptur has been instrumental in securing funds for urban garden projects in Toledo, but nothing of the magnitude of the Cleveland farm.
“We’ve got refugees from all over the world who work it,” Veysey said. “They get a living wage. I think we need to protect the agriculture in Ohio, but we need to keep the food here. We need food not fuel, when you look at the ethanol dollars that are going instead of the food. We’ve got hungry people. We should be eating locally. It’s more sustainable. The average load of food travels 1,500 miles. We’ve got to make sure it’s coming from our own backyards.”
Veysey’s main criticism of Kaptur and Kucinich involves the nation’s growing federal debt, which he pegged at $15 trillion. He maintains the two Congressional incumbents refuse to address the issue during debates.
“It is mortgaging our country’s future and my generation’s future. So we need to stand up and speak out,” he said. “I was always taught ‘If you break it, you buy it, you own it.’ They’ve broken it, but it’s my generation that’s going to have to own it. We deserve a seat at the table.”
Veysey was born and raised in suburban Cleveland and has vowed to move to the Ninth District if elected. He has pledged to only serve four terms in Congress, a promise that Ms. Kaptur criticized would render him ineffective. She is the longest-serving woman in Congress, an accomplishment she has touted throughout the primary season.
Veysey attended Bates College, an elite liberal arts school in Maine. He once interned for the late Tim Russert, famed host of NBC’s Sunday morning political talk show “Meet the Press.” Once Veysey returned to Ohio, he was offered a job coordinating voter outreach for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in Chillicothe and Ironton.
Since then, Veysey has bought an abandoned Cleveland firehouse, which he has converted into living quarters and work space. While he lives on the ground floor, the four-person video production company he started, North Water Partners, occupies the second floor. He also rents out short-term office space and leases to a coffee shop that will open soon.
On the Internet: www.ohiocityfarm.com