Running for Congress for the first time in November, Greg Landsman defeated incumbent Steve Chabot, who had represented Ohio’s 1st District for 26 years. Landsman, 46, was serving his second term on Cincinnati City Council, where he was first elected in 2017. Before that, he’d served as executive director of the Strive Partnership, a network that fosters collaboration for student achievement. He led the successful Cincinnati Preschool Promise tax levy campaign that now provides two years of quality preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds in Cincinnati.
Landsman, a Democrat, begins his term in the 118th Congress with his party in the minority in the House of Representatives by a small margin. We speak with the new congressman about the election, his post-election preparation, and what he expects as his term gets under way.
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WIN. STEVE CHABOT WAS IN CONGRESS FOR A LONG TIME. HOW DID YOU BEAT HIM?
I got into the race because on January 6, 2021, I thought what Chabot did was disqualifying—to try to overturn a presidential election. It was a bridge too far for me, and it turned out it was a bridge too far for voters. He also happens to be somebody who’s been at the forefront of the anti-choice movement for decades.
So running against a big-lie, anti-choice extremist and making sure everyone understood what was at stake played a huge part in the victory. We also worked really hard to make sure people knew who I was and that I wasn’t new to leadership and government.
HOW DID YOUR LIFE CHANGE IN THE WEEKS AFTER YOUR ELECTION WIN?
It’s been about getting the staff hired and the offices set up and laying out a set of legislative priorities. And doing it in a way where people here feel very much part of that. The process represents not just what I talked about in the campaign, but what folks, including business leaders, really want from their federal congressional partner.Then you’ve got to figure out what kind of committees you want to serve on, including what makes the most sense for the district, and how you leverage that committee work to really have an impact here at home.
At the beginning of this experience, like any other, you get to think about how you want to show up and what you want folks to say and know about you. I want folks to feel connected to this office and feel like they finally have a congressman who’s working with them to solve their problems and doing it very well.
WHAT COMMITTEES ARE YOU INTERESTED IN?
Education and Labor, Small Business, and Transportation and Infrastructure are the three that have the most relevancy to this district, I think. It’s critical that the member of Congress who represents the 1st District serve on committees that are most relevant to the district’s priorities. It’s important to always make decisions in the context of knowing you work for the voters of the 1st District, so you do the committee work they’d want you to do.
YOU’LL BE A FRESHMAN IN THE MINORITY PARTY. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THAT TO BE LIKE?
I approach it the way I’ve approached other things I’ve ultimately been successful at, and that is to be clear about the two or three or four big things you want to get done. I want to make it easier for people to pay their bills; getting the Child Tax Credit back on the books is a big priority. Can we build a bipartisan majority or coalition that will get that done? I hope so.
Public safety is a huge issue. We’ve been able to put more cops on the street and hire firefighters and do a whole host of other public safety-related things in Cincinnati because we had money from the American Recovery Act. Those dollars are going to run out in a couple of years. So is there a working majority that can ensure that communities like Cincinnati and Hamilton County and our region’s townships have the resources they need to keep people safe?
I IMAGINE A LOT OF YOUR ATTENTION WILL BE ON IMPLEMENTING LEGISLATION THAT WAS PASSED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS. THE INFRASTRUCTURE BILL AND THE INFLATION REDUCTION ACT ARE HUGE PIECES OF LEGISLATION WITH MASSIVE FUNDING ATTACHED.
Yes, that work isn’t legislative, but it’s huge. We need to work with the Biden Administration and leverage those relationships to ensure that we have what we need to get the Brent Spence Bridge expansion done as well as a host of other infrastructure-related projects. And when someone in Southwest Ohio needs the administration to act, not only are we there, but we’re quick to respond because we’ve assembled a team in order to get things done.We’re bringing business, labor, community and political leaders together in a structured and ongoing way to constantly be addressing those opportunities in a way that gets us the jobs, the investments, and the interest from companies we need.
WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM BUSINESS LEADERS? WHAT DO THEY WANT?
A reliable partner, normalcy, pragmatism, which is what they’ve always gotten from me. There’s so much chaos and extremism in politics. The business community is no different than any other community—they want the chaos to end.They want calm, steady, reliable, normal, effective leadership.
IN THE BIG PICTURE IN D.C. AT THIS POINT, HOW POSSIBLE IS THAT?
It will take some time, but I think we’re heading there. It’s going to require a lot of work over many, many, many years. And it’s going take a lot of work after that. But if you were a big-lie, anti-choice extremist and you were in a competitive election or a competitive state, you lost. I hope that’s a really meaningful warning to folks on the Republican side to be done with President Trump and all of his chaos and the extreme positions of way too many members of their caucus.
DEMOCRATS IN THE HOUSE WILL BE IN THE MINORITY IN THIS NEW SESSION OF CONGRESS AFTER TWO YEARS IN THE MAJORITY. WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?
This is a united group of Democrats that’s focused on being as productive as humanly possible in the minority, and doing it in a way where we prove to folks that we’re willing to work on a bipartisan basis. There are people who believe all kinds of different things in the Democratic caucus, but even when there are folks with extreme viewpoints there is no chaos. Pragmatism and calm, common-sense leadership is what I’m seeing.
SOME REPUBLICANS HAVE BEEN OPEN ABOUT RAMPING UP INVESTIGATIONS OF PRESIDENT BIDEN, HIS FAMILY, HIS ADMINISTRATION, AND OTHER LEGISLATORS. DO YOU EXPECT THAT?
Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of time spent on investigations, which I think is a waste of time. The number of investigations Republicans want to do and how they want to do it seems like it will be incredibly unproductive and will not sit well with voters. And spending all of my time attacking their investigations is also a waste of time. So my sense is that you say, Hey, look, this is not helping the American people, and then you get to work to help the American people. What I’ve been talking to others about and hearing from others about is getting a working majority in the House that can just pass things, and if Republicans want to do their investigations they’ll do their investigations. But the American people definitely want us to focus on doing their work.
BEYOND THE CHILD TAX CREDIT, ARE THERE OTHER AREAS WHERE THERE MIGHT BE BIPARTISAN AGREEMENT IN THIS CONGRESS?
We did the infrastructure investment in a bipartisan way, which had been talked about forever. My hope is that we can do something similar and get comprehensive immigration reform done as well as really getting serious about investing in public safety. That includes both additional personnel and the kind of reforms and changes that will make it easier to get guns out of our communities. There are too many guns in our neighborhoods and our communities that are too close to our schools and our parks. Congress needs to help law enforcement and communities get guns out of there.
I hope there’s bipartisan support for childcare and preschool and helping folks with their aging parents. Unfortunately, the Republican caucus wants to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as a way of reducing spending, but I just don’t see how that’s feasible for them politically. It certainly would be devastating for American families. So protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would also be at the top of my list of priorities.
HOW WILL SPLIT YOUR TIME BETWEEN D.C. AND CINCINNATI?
It’s important to be in Washington, obviously, for votes and for the committee work and to build relationships and to get things done. I also think it’s important to be home and in the 1st District working with people at City Hall and with people in the suburbs, in the townships, and in the county. I want to be very, very, very present here and engaged in the work. So I’ll be in D.C. a couple of nights a week, but primarily home.