16th District: Keith Mundy, an idealist inspired by Bernie Sanders

By Mariah Salloum

Photo courtesy of Keith Mundy campaign Facebook page

“The biggest problem we have is the money in politics,” muttered Keith Mundy, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Ohio’s 16th District. His clear blue eyes fluttered with passion as he began to reveal pieces of his life. Mundy is running for office for the first time, and it’s against a formidable opponent: Jim Renacci. Renacci has been congressman of the 16th District in Ohio since 2011. The district includes parts of Wayne, Medina, Cuyahoga, Summit and Portage Counties in Ohio.

He vows, if elected, to work to give Ohio what it needs: a clean environment, updated public infrastructure, fair health care and education, voting reform and more. Mundy explained that Ohio is in desperate need of a politician to take the greed out of capitalism and be a role model for citizens to look up to, and he’s just the candidate to fill those shoes.

We met at a sushi restaurant called Blue Ginger in Parma. The restaurant was dark and comforting, like a hot cup of coffee on a rainy day. When I arrived, he was already sitting at our table. He stood up and shook my hand with an unwavering grip and an assured smile. He was wearing a brown sport coat, clean gray pants, dress shoes, an American flag pin over his heart and a promotional button with his congressional logo. Mundy asked me about where I am from, where I went to high school and what my major is. He was interested in what I had to say, and said he was proud of me for working to get a college education.

He came across as an eager man with a calm, secure personality that shines as bright as he speaks. I began to ask questions:

“How do you see yourself as a qualified candidate for Congress since you have never held any political positions?” I inquired with beaming eyes.

The edges of his lips slowly curved up. He paused, folded his hands, sat up straight and explained what he was involved in from a young age that gave him leadership skills. He was the president of the Catholic Youth Organization for a year in high school, a member of the student senate for a year at the University of Akron, and he contributed three years working for the campus newspaper as an editor.

“I’ve owned a few businesses,” he continued. “I’ve been one of the people that ran a CYO. I was the baseball commissioner for the Parma City School System. I have management skills. I was a coach [for 30 years]. I understand how to coach people up,” Mundy elaborated with a quick wink as he sipped his tea. His voice was deep and strong, and his personality oozed confidence as he showed me how the pieces of his life fit together.

His participation in the Bernie Sanders movement had a significant impact on him, he said. He traveled to places like Columbus and Philadelphia, where he gave speeches to promote Bernie Sanders. He elaborated on how his leadership skills blossomed as he quickly became the chair of the Northeast Ohio movement for Bernie Sanders. He shared that this was a significant life event that inspired him to run for Congress.

Mundy is very active on his Facebook page. There are 25 videos that feature Mundy explaining his views, attending public events and being interviewed by others. One video shows Mundy sitting on his back porch in a crisp gray sports coat, happily announcing that he and his team will soon be painting his new recreational vehicle, which they will use to connect with the public at community events. Another video displays Mundy doing just that: smiling and waving to crowds at the Blue Tip Wadsworth Parade in Wadsworth, Ohio. Warm sunlight drapes across his face as he exclaims with joy:

“I’m the other guy running for Congress, not the rich guy.”

During our two-hour meeting, I asked, “What are your top four goals if you become elected?”

He had more than four:

  • He would reform healthcare to be a single-payer system. He believes that healthcare is a basic human right that should be accessible for all.
  • He would build entirely new roads for the 21st century that are electric car friendly.
  • He would also work to rebuild Ohio water pipes so that our water remains free of harmful substances.
  • He lit up when he spoke about reforming education. He would work to change the way students pay for college. He proposes that we offer students the option to pay either with cash or in years of service, whether that is government service or community service.
  • Mundy voiced that we are spending too much money on military equipment, where that money could be spent on providing more and better education to our citizens.
  • Finally, he is ready to take on the challenge of reforming how we vote in Ohio. He feels that everyone aged 17.5 and older should be able to vote, and voting should be by mail only.

I emailed a man named Chris Mallin, who is one of Mundy’s supporters, to get an idea of what made him support the Democratic candidate: “Mundy supports the Bernie Sanders proposal for federal investment of a $1 trillion over 10 years to build new water systems, renewable energy systems and low-carbon transportation systems that will provide economic opportunity in America for the next hundred years,” said Mallin in his reply.

“Keith Mundy has grandchildren, and he is willing to make the investment to keep a livable world for his grandchildren and mine.”

As the sun began to sink into the horizon, Mundy shared one final story.

He attended an event in Cleveland where he had the opportunity to talk to poor children from inner-city schools. He spoke to one girl that had such a profound impact on him that he began to weep.

His voice froze and his face became red. He was choking on his words, and he could not control tears from falling down his face.

“She had moved three times in one year. … How can you have a life?” Mundy trembled and wiped tears from his eyes. “How do you do that? That’s what’s going on in this country.”

Mundy continued, “It was shocking to hear this young kid tell me this. She was a senior in high school, and she had been to three different schools. Yet, she kept her grades up”. His tears became more intense as he buried his face in his napkin.

Once he had composed himself, the waitress approached us with the bill. I tried to pay, but Mundy refused to let me, saying, “You’re in college, I’m not. I can get it for you”.

Mundy thanked me for the interview, and said goodbye to employees as we left. He gave me a hug, and we parted ways.