Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The District 19 Candidates – Part 2

April Freeman
Last week, I looked at Republican candidate Curt Clawson’s background. Today’s post looks at Democratic candidate April Freeman. As with Clawson, I’ll start with biographical information from her campaign website and other web sources.

Freeman says she is running for Congress “to return dignity, decency and common sense to national life and Southwest Florida…. Like so many Americans, I just couldn’t go where the extremists were taking us.” Her LinkedIn page describes her as an “Activist, Grassroots Community Organizer, Writer, Publisher & Film Maker.”

She was born in 1964, grew up and attended high school and college in southeastern Michigan, and now lives in Cape Coral. She is married to David Freeman and they have two adult daughters.

According to her website:
In 2000, she founded a public relations marketing firm, changing focus to film and television production in 2005. From a single location in Macomb County, MI, Freeman expanded the her [sic] company to Los Angeles and Southwest Florida, producing or participating in productions such as “Rock Slyde,” “Cadillac Records,” and “Hemingway and Gelhorn,” along with a number of music videos for popular music groups, including Bon Jovi.
An IMDb “mini biography” states:
In addition to media production, … April is the author to a series of children's books, a published sports writer, currently authoring a self help book. April has also worked freelance in the advertising industry organizing promotional projects and was also a key player in the City of Detroit Anti-Arson Campaign created and headed by Mayor Dennis Archer, while able to work on the election campaigns of several Detroit area politicians. In addition to April's long public relations background, she also has musical, modeling and acting experience and has worked as a design stylist & master floral/food designer for several magazine and catalog photo shoots, television commercials, public service announcements, short and industrial films. 
Freeman says she has worked on political campaigns and organized community volunteers since "the Reagan days." According to her website:
For 30 years, Freeman was a loyal Republican. “Like most Americans, I accepted the politics I grew up with,” she recalls. She was active in the Republican Party, campaigning for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, working local neighborhood precincts and making calls for state and congressional candidates. In 2005 her business and political activities were recognized when she was named “Businesswoman of the Year” by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. 
Because my Google searches were unable to find any third-party reference to this recognition, I have asked her campaign manager for more information.

Her website continues:
But it was when the financial crisis hit that Freeman lost faith in Republican policies…. "The policies being pursued by the Republican Party were devastating the American economy Millions of Americans were being hurt and losing their homes. I couldn’t support a party that would continue that.” 
She herself was affected. “'I had to walk away from a house in Michigan,’ she recalls.” In a January 2014 appearance on Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle, Freeman confirmed there was a foreclosure.

Ultimately, Freeman says, “I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Party left me.”

Freeman became a volunteer with then-candidate Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and served as a 2012 volunteer Organizing Fellow in Lee County, responsible for Northwest Cape Coral and Pine Island, and as the Northeast Cape Coral Get-Out-the-Vote Staging Location Director.

Following the  election, she continued her work on behalf of the Obama organization, serving as Deputy State Lead responsible for organizing community service events with non-profit partner organizations and volunteer workers, and as Press Contact Liaison in Florida for The Presidential Inaugural Committee - National Day of Service.

Her experience with the Obama campaign awakened an interest in running for political office. “While I was out working on the Obama campaign, I was working with the community and realized they needed a voice that reflects them,” she told Jeff Lytle on Naples Daily NewsMakers in January. “And I’m that voice.”

In January 2013, she filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for the House of Representatives to represent District 19, and later that year attended the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. This is a 5- day, “non-partisan, issue-neutral leadership program, whose mission is to increase the number and influence of women in elected and appointed office in the United States and around the globe.” Tuition is currently $1500. In February 2014, after incumbent Congressman Trey Radel resigned, she filed to run in the special election to fill the seat.

As for her film/TV production business, she told Lytle she put it on hold. “I just felt such a passion for going after this office that I put all that aside for right now.”

An incident from Freeman’s past has received media attention. A January 2014 article in the Naples Daily News titled “SW Fla. candidate sued after Olympic skater’s family alleged harassment” says, “A [2010] lawsuit against [Congressional candidate April Freeman] has alleged trademark infringement and barred her from visiting the grave of an Olympic figure skater she claimed was her boyfriend.”

A May 2010 Detroit News article titled “Skater Bowman's troubled life to play out in court” provides more detail:
… Bowman's family declined to comment on the suit, but Freeman contends the claims are false and amount to harassment. She claims she and Bowman were intimate for six years and planned to marry…. Freeman, who is married and still lives with her husband, said Bowman had lived in Lake Orion with her and her husband and two daughters for the last six years of his life. She said she met Bowman at the Detroit Skating Club, where he coached her daughter. “We became friends, then intimate friends and also business partners,” she said, adding her marriage was “one of convenience.” 
Asked about the incident in a May 2014 Naples Daily News Editorial Board meeting, Freeman said she is legally prohibited from discussing it, although “there’s a lot of inaccurate information out there.” When pressed by interviewer Jeff Lytle, she said, “All the people of Southwest Florida need to know is I’m a hard-working person, an honest person, a fighter in causes I believe, and that situation is one of those causes.”

If you get the chance, watch the NewsMakers interview and the Editorial Board meeting.

Freeman’s website lists endorsements by 20 organizations, including the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard, The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), The United Steelworkers Union (USW), The Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), Southwest Florida Chapter of the AFL-CIO, UA Plumber Pipefitters Local 725, and the bipartisan Women’s Campaign Fund.

My bottom line: I am troubled that Freeman did not graduate from college, “walked away” from a mortgage, and was apparently involved in a long-term extra-marital affair. At the same time, I am impressed by her volunteer work with the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns and her subsequent work with The Presidential Inaugural Committee. Those are things I have personally been a part of and can relate to. And I give her much credit for being willing to endure the hardships of a political campaign, especially knowing that her life will be closely examined and harshly talked about. For these reasons, I believe she is sincere and passionate about wanting to serve the people of Southwest Florida who she believes need a voice in Washington, D.C.

And importantly, from what I can tell, she is more likely than her opponents to vote in line with my values if elected to Congress.

If I missed something about Freeman that you think is relevant to readers' voting decision, please post a comment and website reference to let us know.

In the interest of more quickly getting to the other candidates and issues that will be on the ballot in the August 26 election, I will not be writing about the other two District 19 candidates, Libertarian Ray Netherwood and write-in candidate Timothy Rossano.

I will be watching carefully as the campaign progresses in the few short weeks between now and the June 24 Special Election. I hope you will, too. And I hope that if you live in District 19, you take the time to vote.

Remember: you must be registered to vote by today - May 27 – to vote in the Special Election, and early voting begins June 14. For more information about polling places, voting hours, etc., click here.


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