Pollard, Freeman Hope to Usher Change in District 17



It’s tough rallying Democrats in south Sarasota County, more so in some of the inland parts of U.S. House District 17. But two candidates have been traveling the nine-county jurisdiction speaking to voters unhappy with Republican rule. Cape Coral film producer April Freeman and Avon Park sleep technologist Bill Pollard each believe they have what it takes to flip this seat.

Freeman has run here before, challenging Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, in 2016. She lost to the incumbent by 27.6 percent, but got her name out. “We made Rooney spend $1 million in the last two weeks in an election, and he’s never done that before,” she boasts. But when Rooney announced he would not seek a second term, she saw a clearer path to Washington. “I know this district better than anybody running,” she says.

Pollard also sees a chance for a Democrat to win here, but it’s more because of who lives in the White House. Pollard himself had been a third-party or independent voter for years—until the day after Donald Trump won the presidency. “I went to the Highlands County Democratic headquarters and said I want to register Democrat,” he says. 

Pollard voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson in 2016, but regrets that now. “I really thought Hillary [Clinton] would win regardless of what I did,” he admits. “A lot of voters did the same thing. I'll admit I’m part of the problem.” But he’s found those who joined the party post-Trump have been the most energetic voters when it comes to prepping for 2018. He’s met Republicans who changed parties and independents committing to voting Democrat this fall.

Freeman notes that this district includes parts of state House District 72, which state Rep. Margaret Good flipped blue in a special election in February. She also sees similarities between House District 17 and a Pennsylvania Congressional seat Democrat Conor Lamb filliped in a special election in March.

As far as issues, Freeman says many senior voters worry about social security coming under attacking Washington. In Sarasota specifically, she’s found incredible concern for the environment, and throughout concerns have grown tremendously about algal blooms field by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Pollard is running on a Medicare-for-all health care platform, with a promise to strengthen social security and roll back the full retirement age to 65, renewing a promise by the government to voters. He’s also like to see the government pay for workforce training and community college. And he wants better protections from discrimination in jobs based on race, religion, politics or sexual orientation.

Freeman and Pollard are running in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

Pictures by Jacob Ogles: Bill Pollard and April Freeman

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