Saturday, July 21, 2012

Marc Veasey hopes his years in politics will help open a new chapter - Fort Worth Star Telegram

Marc Veasey

Hometown: Fort Worth

Birthplace: Fort Worth

Occupation: Commercial real estate; representative for Texas House District 95

Family: Married to wife Tonya since 2004; they have a son, Adam, 6.

Education: Texas Wesleyan University, 1995

Work: Former substitute teacher, newspaper clerk, script writer for an advertising agency

Political experience: Field representative to former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, for six years. He was elected to represent Texas House District 95 in 2004 and has won re-election three times. He became minority whip in 2005 and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2011.

GRAND PRAIRIE -- Marc Veasey remembers the moment as if it were yesterday.

He was around 13, watching TV at his grandmother's home in Como, when a White House press briefing came on the screen.Captivated, he asked his uncle - Robert James English, a former TV reporter who worked for House Majority Leader Jim Wright of Fort Worth - what the person on TV was doing."He told me that was the White House press secretary," Veasey said during a recent interview at a Grand Prairie coffee shop. "I was fascinated with politics from then on."Veasey's chance came in 2004 when he made his first bid for public office, challenging nine-year Democratic state Rep. Glenn Lewis for Texas House District 95. The political newcomer won 54 percent to oust Lewis and went on to win the seat three more times without drawing any Democratic opponents.Now the 41-year-old Fort Worth native hopes his political experience can help him land a new job: as the first person to represent the new 33rd Congressional District."I really enjoyed my time in the state Legislature and it was tough to leave," Veasey said. "But once I saw the [boundaries of the] district, I prayed about it and talked with my wife about it. And I decided to run for it."I came from this district and I understand it," he said. "Times are tough right now and I want to be the congressman who is there for them."Veasey faces former state Rep. Domingo Garcia of Dallas in a July 31 runoff election. The winner will face Republican Chuck Bradley in the November general election.The early daysGrowing up, Veasey and his family - parents Connie and Joseph, and brother Ryan - lived in a number of rent houses, many in Fort Worth's Stop Six neighborhood.By the time he was 10, his parents had divorced and he moved into his grandparents' Como home with his mom and brother.Times were never easy, but he kept his focus on the future - and that became sharper after watching that White House briefing."I caught the bug at an early age," he said with a grin. "I always kept coming back to it."He graduated from Arlington Heights High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Wesleyan University before moving on to work that included a year as a substitute teacher and time as a newspaper clerk and a script writer for an advertising agency.Then one summer, he volunteered for U.S. Rep. Martin Frost's campaign and was hired full-time as a field representative.Veasey traveled through North Texas neighborhoods, learning about residents' needs, developing programs to reach out to voters and keeping Frost up to date on constituent concerns.Role of redistrictingRedistricting has shaped part of Veasey's life.In 2003, the GOP-led Legislature redrew congressional districts, though courts had created new boundaries in 2001, setting the stage for Frost to lose his seat and for Veasey to win his first election.During the redistricting, many state House Democrats fled to Ardmore, Okla., in protest. But Lewis, a close ally of Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick, didn't go. He said he did his own protest by holing up at an Austin hotel.Eventually, the Legislature - at the urging of U.S. House GOP Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Gov. Rick Perry - approved a new map, dismantling Frost's district and prompting him to seek office in a GOP district. He lost in 2004 to Republican Pete Sessions.Also in that election, Veasey formally won the state House district he wrestled away from Lewis during the Democratic primary. He was re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2010.When state lawmakers began redistricting in 2011, Veasey landed a seat on the House Redistricting Committee and was determined to make a difference.When the GOP-led Legislature produced maps some believed harmed minority voting rights, he and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, were among those filing motions in court to protest the maps.Legal action tied the maps up in court for months, delaying Texas' primary elections, eventually leading to the new Democratic-leaning, minority-majority 33rd District."The [2003] redistricting made me understand how important [the process] was to the community," Veasey said. "I wanted to make sure the community had a voice. I wanted to be a difference maker."If I hadn't been willing to ruffle some feathers, the first Republican map would have stayed in place," he said. "The questions we asked allowed all the plaintiffs ... to help expose the process the Republicans used, which was discriminatory."Future possibilitiesVeasey had hoped there might be an opportunity for him to run for Congress someday."I thought if this opportunity came up, I would take a look at it," he said. "I was happy in the state Legislature."Now he's looking at the possibility of being elected to a district that covers much of the same area Frost's district did.Garcia has said Veasey would be a "play-along-to-get-along Democrat," wouldn't serve as a truly independent voice if he's elected to Congress and would be beholden to all the supporters who donated big dollars to his campaign. Garcia said Veasey isn't a true Democrat because of a protest vote he cast in the 1996 presidential primary against Texas Republican Phil Gramm.Veasey dismisses those concerns, saying he's his own man, a true Democrat who would make the best decisions possible for his district if elected. He has said Garcia is distrusted and simply a "bad Democrat." And he said he's a different type of leader than Garcia, whom some have described as unnecessarily combative."I take teamwork very seriously," he said. "I always work hard to not be a divisive person. I want people to feel I'm a truth teller and they can talk to me and it won't go any farther."If elected, Veasey said, he would like to focus on education first, because "that is the key to everything."Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610Twitter: @annatinsley

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