Parker on Politics: Freeman begins run at House seat

Fort Myers News Press - December 27, 2014 

April Freeman, the Cape Coral Democrat who ran for Congress in November and lost to U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, is already campaigning for the same seat in 2016.

Clawson won with about 65 percent of the vote. Freeman got almost 33 percent, and Libertarian Ray Netherwood, had almost 3 percent. A Republican has held Southwest Florida's congressional seat for 44 years.

But Freeman said she thinks the next election could be different. That'll be a presidential year, and Democrats turn out better when that race is on the ballot.

Southwest Florida voters may have felt some had "election fatigue" after the special congressional election in the spring to fill the vacancy created by Trey Radel's resignation, she speculated. "I met people who didn't realize we were going to vote again for Congress" in November, she said.

That was also Freeman's first bid for office, and she acknowledged it could take another campaign to raise voters' awareness of her issues. "It's a big district and I didn't have millions of dollars for ads," she said. "I knew it could take a while to get my message out and for voters to get to know me."

Freeman broke fundraising records as a Democratic woman running in Southwest Florida, and collected enough money to meet the party's required thresholds for additional help. But that came relatively late in the last election, she said. With the earlier start this year, she plans to bring in the party assistance sooner.

She also expects to gain additional support from women of all parties; women voters are likely to support a candidate of the same gender. "And we're working hard on getting more young people more engaged," she said, pointing to new data showing that about 75 percent of the November turnout was 55 or older.

Freeman, a grandparent at 51, said she's well aware of the concerns of older voters, but the nation's future also depends on its youth.

Meanwhile, she said, she's staying politically active and posting on her campaign web site, including statements saying "incrementally lifting the embargo on Cuba is the right thing to do."

Regarding the cyberattack on Sony and its initial decision to delay the release of "The Interview" movie, Freeman said she agreed with President Barack Obama when he said canceling the release date was a mistake and self-censorship. But, she added, "it concerned me when the president promised an action of proportionate response and in a place and manner that we choose."

Given the nation's technological capabilities, she said, she's disappointed there aren't better protections already in place against such cyberattacks.

Clawson plans re-election run

U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, also plans to seek re-election.

He turned to Twitter for his comment on the Sony incident, saying "Freedom of expression, in our nation, should not be dictated from foreign lands."

Clawson, who's been home during the congressional holiday break, also tweeted several photos from the City of Palms basketball tournament — Clawson played on Purdue's championship team during college — and another photo "at one of my other offices —Starbucks Naples!"

Clawson has made his liking for the coffee shop well-known; while many other elected officials ask others to come to their office for meetings and interviews, Clawson often chooses one of the Starbucks throughout the district.

"Curt likes being out in the community when he's conducting district businesses and meetings," said spokesman David James. While Starbucks is "a great meeting spot," James said, Clawson also uses The Second Cup, Doc's Beach House and The Fish House for the same purpose.