Over the next year, Democrats will be racking their brains trying to figure out how to achieve success in the 2018 midterms while looking ahead to 2020, insofar as who could be their strongest candidate for the White House.
I have my own views on the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of different contenders whom the Democratic Party might put forth for the presidency. One of their party’s best-kept secrets is a lawmaker who rarely gets exposure or buzz from the gatekeepers of the mainstream media. U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey – who serves the 33rd Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives – blends likeability, intelligence, savvy, and foresight in a manner from which the Democrats could stand to benefit. He may not be a showboating “marquee name” at the moment, but he could provide the exact brand of sanity and compassion that will go a long way toward bringing American politics back down to Earth.
The first major component that would make Marc Veasey an appealing, relatable presidential candidate is his personal and professional histories. He isn’t from a wealthy, upper-class background. He worked as a substitute teacher. He worked as a sportswriter. He worked as an ad agency technical writer. Although Veasey hasn’t yet published an autobiographical hardcover/paperback memoir (the way so many of his up-and-coming Democratic peers in the U.S. Senate have), he has plenty of non-patrician perspective to share.
Veasey’s initial entrance into politics came during a summer when he volunteered (and later was hired full-time) as a staff member to then-U.S. Congressman Martin Frost. After working for Frost in a closely-divided “purple” district, Marc Veasey made the leap to running in his own right. He was elected to the Texas State House of Representatives by the people of District 95, which encompassed Southeastern Fort Worth. After four two-year terms as a state representative, Veasey ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in the newly-drawn 33rd District following the 2010 Census. In November 2012, he was elected to Congress with 72% of the vote. He is currently serving his third consecutive term in the U.S. House, poised to be easily reelected to a fourth two-year term on November 6, 2018.
With twelve years of legislative experience under his belt, Marc Veasey has gained experience without being weighed down by the stigmatic mileage of serving as a “career politician.” If he runs for the presidency, his campaign would likely center around the six key areas in which he has focused his energies on behalf of citizens in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area – scaling those solutions to apply to a national platform.
The first area of passion from U.S. Representative Marc Veasey has been an emphasis on voting rights. He joined the Section 5 lawsuit that contested the restrictive statewide voter ID law passed in Texas, in the face of which Governor Greg Abbott himself had to file an affidavit to remain permanently eligible to vote! Veasey’s goal is to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965, portions of which the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned in June of 2013. A centerpiece of this effort (H.R. 2867) is to give the federal government a greater role to protect citizens so that voter suppression and systemic discrimination based on demographics no longer occurs in precincts across the country. Even if the odds of Veasey winning the nomination itself are low, raising this issue in the Democratic primaries would shine a gigantic spotlight onto fraud, voter roll purging, and re-registering voters in preparation for the 2020 election cycle.
A second core category on Veasey’s political checklist is job creation. This has been his focus during his time in both the Texas state house and the U.S. House. Since first being elected at the state level, Marc Veasey hosts an annual job fair to link job-seekers with potential employers throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area; his staff provides different versions of these forums that are geared toward adults and teens alike. While on Martin Frost’s congressional staff, Veasey was instrumental getting transportation funding that launched construction and infrastructure jobs along the I30 of the Cockrell Hill neighborhood.
Springboarding off of his office’s job fairs: Marc Veasey has also been a leader in pushing for health care reform and wellness promotion. Every May, he features health fairs in Washington D.C. and back in Texas to teach people about exercise, preventive self-care, and culinary nutrition. While interning for Frost, he pioneered a much-needed community grocery store for Southeastern Fort Worth. This past year, Veasey joined members of his party endorsing a Medicare-For-All plan…but he has also emphasized getting out in front of the problem by shedding light on the concept of “food deserts” (areas that suffer from lack of access to healthy groceries). He notes that diabetes rates are especially high among people of color and people with special needs. If indeed the sustainable agriculture movement picks up steam in the coming years, Marc Veasey would be a logical spokesperson to link the importance of having a robust national food supply to the reduction of medical costs and creation of innovative new jobs.
A fourth priority of Veasey’s has been education. From his time in the Texas state legislature up through the present, Marc Veasey has been an ardent supporter of increased funding for Head Start, Upward Bound, STEM, and universal preschool programs. He proposed legislation (H.R. 1833) to protect American-born students with undocumented parents from being denied their FAFSA awards. Veasey cosponsored Congressman Ruben Hinojosa’s “Fast Track to College” bill (H.R. 551) that would integrate Associate’s Degree programs into high schools through dual enrollment.
Marc Veasey’s fifth area of civic focus has been on immigration. A vocal proponent of worker programs extending legal eligibility to undocumented individuals who are gainfully employed, Veasey believes these rights must also include fair wages and safe working conditions. His support of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program is amongst the strongest of all federal representatives. Congressman Veasey calls for the elimination of bureaucratic red tape that impedes one’s path to citizenship, while cracking down on scammers and con artists who cheat foreign nationals out of their hard-earned money with false promises.
The last major category on which Veasey has concentrated his focus has been accessibility – specifically, creating opportunities for groups that have been underserved, such as military veterans, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. He proposed funding (H.R. 1816) for 9/11-era military personnel who choose to pursue academic degrees in STEM fields. His efforts (H.R. 1645) have also strengthened funding for transit services to accommodate people with disabilities and the elderly. In 2013, Veasey introduced a $500 tax credit (H.R. 2051) that would go to seniors who help to raise grandchildren in their own households.
So why would Marc Veasey – compared to so many of the other Democrats who could run – offer up a candidacy that would benefit the American public? Along with the aforementioned issues that need solutions, Veasey has joined U.S. Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-PA) to create the Congressional Blue Collar Caucus. As co-founders and co-chairs of this delegation, Veasey and Boyle hope to reach many working-class voters who belong to unions or who work as independent contractors – including many of the ones who voted for Trump in 2016. The congressmen maintain that generating stable, good-paying jobs and rebuilding infrastructure will keep job creation vibrant for generations to come. Veasey and his coalition are skeptical that Trump will hold himself accountable for his policies, and they intend to mount public pressure on him so as to ensure that economic stability is the result that comes to fruition.
To complement this message, Congressman Veasey regularly participates in his “Marc Means Business” endeavor throughout the year. Every few weeks, he returns to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to spend a day “on-the-job” with a working-class or middle-class constituent…sort of like Undercover Boss, except the idea is to learn and gather information that can spur future legislative proposals.
It is true that (once January 2019 rolls around) Congressman Marc Veasey would have to choose between running in the Democratic presidential primaries or running for a fifth term to his 33rd Congressional District seat. However, after the next round of redistricting occurs following the 2020 Census, there’s a chance that Texas Republicans (if they retain both state-level chambers, and if Greg Abbott is reelected as Governor) might just carve up Veasey’s congressional district anyway. The same thing happened to U.S. Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Betty Sutton – both Democrats – after Republicans regained control of redistricting in Ohio following the 2010 midterms. The GOP might view 2021 as a prime opportunity to increase the number of Republican-leaning U.S. House seats that are currently part of the Texas delegation…which means that Veasey could otherwise see his congressional influence threatened even if his party reclaims the U.S. House and U.S. Senate by January 2021.
Furthermore, if Marc Veasey makes a positive name for himself competing in the Democratic presidential primaries, he could very well net himself a plum cabinet position. Depending on who the Democratic nominee (and possible electoral victor) is in 2020, Veasey might get tapped to be that person’s White House Press Secretary or Chief-of-Staff. If he doesn’t win the primary, he would probably make the short-list to be chosen for the vice-presidential slot by a potential standard-bearer such as Kirsten Gillibrand, Steve Bullock, Chris Murphy, or Amy Klobuchar.
But, here’s the cherry-on-top: with the right momentum, I think he could win the primary. In a General Election, Veasey wouldn’t need the 38 electoral votes of his own native Texas to secure a victory. If he carries all of the states won by Hillary Clinton, plus a handful of “Obama states” that had decamped to Trump in 2016 (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina), he will hit 270. A national campaign that appeals to the Rust Belt is exactly the type of movement that Veasey and Boyle have been cultivating.
Then, consider some of the other marquee names also being batted around for the Democratic presidential nomination. While Cory Booker and Julian Castro might be very charismatic when it comes to personality, their respective résumés in terms of legislative activity have been fairly light, compared to that of Marc Veasey. Also, keep in mind that Veasey’s positive reputation throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area is strong across a metropolis of nearly five-million residents – twice the size of San Antonio’s metro area, and more than sixteen times the size of Newark (and it could fit more than half of New Jersey’s own population into it).
Another “secret weapon” in Marc Veasey’s arsenal is his wife, Tonya. As the founder and CEO of her own public relations firm, Open Channels Group, Tonya Veasey has been the financial breadwinner in their household – balancing her work and family lives as she commutes between Fort Worth and Washington D.C. while she and her husband prioritize the well-being of their twelve-year-old son, Adam. As many First Families have struggled to do, Tonya and Marc Veasey would effectively speak to Americans who juggle their livelihoods with love and loyalty to their kin.
The 2020 Democratic presidential field will almost certainly be crowded. But if Congressman Marc Veasey indeed decides to make a run for it, he may prove to be that election season’s most pleasantly unexpected surprise.