The Teaford Party
The Interdisciplinary Studies major is taking another shot at local politics.
By Kristian Porter, Northern Kentucky University
In the aftermath of a divisive presidential election and his own tough campaign for Kentucky representative, it would have been easy for Matt Teaford to walk away from politics.
In fact, many would never imagine that, at only twenty-four years old, he would want anything to do with government affairs. Despite the fact that millennials now rival the baby boomers for the largest age group in the United States, making their participation in politics all the more vital, the turnout at the polls for young people is less than impressive.
According to one poll, only 50 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds in the country voted in the 2016 election, and even less, a measly 13 percent have considered running for public office. For Teaford, though, the current political climate has only served to push him harder toward his goal.
He is, once again, pursuing a seat in public office. This time, Teaford is running for Cincinnati’s City Council, hoping to bring a fresh, young outlook to the city, and to inspire more millennials to get involved.
A New Perspective
After running for Kentucky’s representative last year and having to drop out of the race, Teaford realized that he needed to start smaller and shift his focus to local elections, wanting to make a difference in his own community.
When observing the other candidates, he found the same old status-quo politicians, each one bringing the same worn-out ideas to the table. “When I looked at the local level, I realized that not many people were young,” Teaford says. “And not many were reasonable.”
His worry is that these politicians are out of touch with the problems that are currently facing Cincinnati, especially with its young people. “I’ve got a lot of college debt. I’m coming into a situation that even people from two generations ago don’t get,” Teaford says. “And it’s unfortunate that it takes someone who’s younger to put forth initiatives that benefit younger people.”
He considers his age an asset, making him versatile and giving him an advantage in the campaign. He has been able to utilize strategies that are specifically aimed at getting younger people involved. “I’m able to build my own website and market my own social-media campaign,” he says.
Teaford is active on his social-media accounts, showing the way he’s getting involved in the Cincinnati community and offering an open forum for anyone to ask questions or challenge his views—an important part of his party platform.
He believes in being honest with voters, and sometimes, that means admitting when he’s wrong or when he simply doesn’t know. “I feel like a twenty-four-year-old running for office is going to be the kind of person who wants to continuously learn, push the boundaries and think of new strategies to make the city better,” he says.
While his age does mean that he’s less experienced than his competition, he doesn’t see this as a bad thing. His youth only shows that he’s not stuck in the same cycle of corruption, and he’s ready to look at issues with fresh eyes. “A lot of people say that your lack of experience hurts you,” Teaford says. “But, truth be told, being young is a powerful statement.”
No More Party Politics
Teaford made a significant change from his last campaign: He is now running as an Independent. The decision came after the bloody battle he watched in Kentucky’s election, a state that doesn’t leave much room for anyone outside of the two-party system. “I saw what was happening and how divisive and corrupt it was,” Teaford says. “I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s a tug-o-war that I don’t want to be a part of.”
Shifting his focus to Cincinnati and finally running as a no-party candidate has given Teaford room to focus on the issues that he cares about. “I think being an Independent this year is important. It shows you’re not willing to completely buy into an ideology or sell your beliefs, but that you believe in sticking to the issues,” he says.
Choosing to run as an Independent can pose a risk, especially in such a divisive two-party political culture, but Teaford believes that it’s the direction the country is leaning. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 44 percent of American citizens identify as Independents. “A lot of people are scared to step out of the box,” Teaford says.
People also have a tendency to lack true understanding about what being Independent means. “Many see an Independent, and they ask, ‘Which way do you lean?’ Well, I believe in being compassionate toward other people, but at the same time, being reasonable with spending.”
Part of his campaign is his focus on accountability, allowing the citizens of Cincinnati to see exactly where their money is going.
To do this, Teaford wants to develop a website, and an eventual app, that allows people to see a dollar-by-dollar breakdown of where the money is spent, if it’s being spent efficiently and who approved the measures.
“As taxpayers, we’re the people who employ those who run the city,” Teaford says. “And it’s important that we have an outlet to hold them accountable.”
The Queen City
Teaford originally ran for the Kentucky election because his permanent address at the time, his parents’ address, was in his hometown in northern Kentucky. But, he has now officially moved to Cincinnati, and he couldn’t be happier. “I’m attuned with the issues of Cincinnati, probably even more so than Kentucky. Attending the University of Cincinnati, I’ve lived, worked and seen the development here for so many years.”
Teaford loves Cincinnati for its sense of community. There is usually only two degrees of separation between any two people; everyone knows someone through someone else, and he feels that this makes Cincinnati different than any other place he’s been.
Because of that sense of connectedness, everyone is willing to listen, something he feels is important for an Independent. “The best part about this city is that everyone is always willing to have a conversation,” Teaford says. “Even if they don’t agree completely, they’re nice enough to sit down and listen.”
This has been a tremendous help for his campaign, as he sits down with the citizens to talk about his beliefs and the issues he cares about. The biggest issue he sees facing the community now is drug overdoses, and, in light of the recent shooting at a Cincinnati nightclub, the levels of crime. “Everyone wants to increase patrols or the size of the police force, though data shows that it’s not working. We have bad strategies on the books, and we’re not relying on research-based initiatives,” he says.
He also hopes to fund community-recreation centers, places that provide the children of Cincinnati with extra learning and a safe space to go after school. Teaford’s main concern is helping the citizens of the city that he loves, a city he says is a good, blue-collar, hard-working city (and one that loves its craft beer).
“I’m not going to get caught up in the childish game of party politics,” Teaford says. “I’m not going to be bought out. I’m going to make sure we’re taking care of people.”