In such a polarized landscape, it’s hard to believe that the majority of voters actually identify as being an independent. Making up the largest portion of voters in America, they’re the ones who often sway the vote in one direction or another.
In the swing state of Ohio, this is an all-too-apparent fact of life. Despite this fact and the state's notoriously divided voter demographic, few independent candidates have stepped up to speak for the voters.
Enter 24-year-old political newcomer Matt Teaford.
A writer, small business owner, and website developer, he’s not what many would consider to be the “typical politician,” but he sees his young age and versatility to be an asset that few have in the political realm.
Knowing he was such a unique candidate for this year’s Cincinnati City Council race, I couldn’t help but feel that his message of unity and ending party politics was one that would resonate with many, so I sat down to pick his brain on what his vision is for the city and what sets him apart from other candidates.
1. I see that your motto is “passion drives progress.” What does that mean to you?
When you come from a background that’s centered around passion projects and a general love for evoking the passions of others, you come to realize that an inherent force comes from within us when we truly care for something or someone. My passion for the city of Cincinnati is never-ending. I wouldn’t be running for this seat at the age of 24 if I didn’t have this passion. If more elected officials teamed passion with reason and compassion for others, we’d be making so much more progress as a collective city. Too often do politicians show favoritism to their own party or neighborhoods, and that’s the kind of corruption that hurts everyone.
2. You said you wouldn’t be running at 24 if you weren’t passionate about the city… where does this passion come from at such a young age?
Quite frankly, someone needs to be a voice for my generation. If we turned out more, we’d have the power to steer not only this city in a more enlightened direction, but the nation as a whole. Many of us don’t have ties to either party and feel misrepresented. Most of us want liberty and inclusion for others without the corruption and wasteful disregard from the government at all levels. If people like myself don’t take a stand to give us a voice, then many are going to keep backing further away from politics, which gives us less hope at altering a more positive future. The less power that’s in the hands of engaged citizens, the less freedom we have. That’s all there is to it.
3. Do you see your age or being an independent candidate to be a hindrance on your chances of winning?
I think that last year really put things into perspective with how out of touch all of the parties are with the heartbeat of our country. At a local level, sure, it’s fair to say that I won’t get the big money donors nor the party support that some others will get, but I think a lot of people are tired of seeing the same people bounce from position to position with their pockets lined by the same wealthy folks every time. People want money out of politics and so do I. Being young is actually probably to my benefit given the fact that so many people are becoming aware of the corruption and favoritism seen in politics. If you want the same old, same old, I’m not your guy. If you want to derail the status quo, I’ll gladly welcome you to my camp with open arms.
4. How do you plan to fight corruption and foster a culture of accountability when elected?
Much of the problem stems from the fact that a lot of government information in shielded from the public, even at the local level. Many of the current members have been the furthest thing from accessible and council meetings are held in the middle of the afternoon; a time when few citizens can participate. I want to make a push to get council meetings back in the neighborhoods of the city so that voters feel empowered. I also want to create a brand new website and app that more accurately tracks expenditures and measures taken by council so that members can be held accountable for their records and successful projects. I’d also be in favor of publicly-funded elections, but that’s more of a long-term goal.
5. What do you believe is the most pressing issue for the city to address right now?
It’s no secret that our region is one of the worst in the country when it comes to opioid addiction. Politicians claim time and time again that they care about addressing the issue, but fail to take action. We need to make sure that we’re using data-driven approaches to help those battling addiction. We also face one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the nation. We cannot lose focus of the fact that there are children who may be going to bed without food tonight or stable shelter while we focus on projects that do nothing to increase the quality of life for our city as a whole. In my world, community health comes first. A high quality of life and low cost of living is the path to prosperity for any city.
6. What’s something that separates you from other candidates?
At the end of the day, I have no private interest in this race. I genuinely care about every citizen of this city, regardless of what party they normally vote for, their background, and which neighborhood they come from. We are a collective unit as a city. We cannot have progress if any of our neighborhoods are getting left behind. I am willing to learn and never afraid to stand up for personal liberties nor economic inclusion. I envision Cincinnati as a city that’s safe, welcoming, and caring to anyone who decides to visit or make a home here. This year needs to be about the issues. If a candidate has private interests, is bought out, or has failed to be accessible in the past, you should expect better. I will always stay true to my values. If you believe in independent thought, you should definitely fill out the box next to my name in November.
7. This one’s for fun: If you had to choose between losing Cincinnati Chili or Cincinnati’s Craft Beer for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Gosh, it took you seven questions, but you finally asked me the hardest one. Everyone knows I love my late night adventures to Camp Washington Chili, but there’s no way I could give up my assortment of favorite local brews. You can’t take a step out of your door without landing on one of our incredible breweries, and it would be too painful to have to longingly drive past them every day.