Candidate Freeman dies; Democratic chairmen to confer on a replacement

OKEECHOBEE — With the sudden death Sept. 23 of their candidate running for the 17th Congressional District of Florida seat in the U.S. House, Democratic Party chairmen in the nine counties partly or wholly inside the district will talk in a conference call on Saturday, Sept. 29, about picking a replacement for her.

April Freeman of Cape Coral, who’d won 77 percent of the vote to Bill Pollard’s 23 percent in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary to win the nomination, suffered an apparent heart attack and died at her home on Sunday night, according to an announcement that her husband, David, posted on her personal Facebook page.

April Freeman of Cape Coral, who’d won 77 percent of the vote to Bill Pollard’s 23 percent in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary to win the nomination, suffered an apparent heart attack and died at her home on Sunday night, Sept. 23, 2018.

Mrs. Freeman, a movie and television producer, was opposing Republican nominee Greg Steube in the Nov. 6 general election for the seat representing parts or all of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Lee, Okeechobee, Polk and Sarasota counties. Her name still will appear on ballots in the nine counties, however, because absentee slates already have been mailed to some overseas and military voters.

The Florida Democratic Party released a statement Monday stating: “We are incredibly saddened … April put her heart and soul into her community — and was dedicated to making a better future for all Floridians. Her work ethic and passion was an inspiration to all of us. It is a tremendous loss to the Democratic Party and to all who knew her.”

State law specifies that the party chairmen from the 17th District’s nine counties must choose a substitute candidate within five days of being notified by the state chairman.

Tom Rooney, who now represents District 17 in Congress, did not file to seek re-election.

Mr. Steube said on his Facebook page Monday afternoon that he was suspending his campaign events for a week to honor the late Mrs. Freeman’s memory. “I respect her service to our community and admire her commitment to the causes she cared about,” he posted.

The Okeechobee County Democratic Executive Committee chairman, Weston Harvey, called her death a “terrible” loss. “It’s really unfortunate, especially after all the hard work everybody did and all of her supporters, for something like that to happen, and especially when we have a good candidate. It’s a terrible thing. Such is life … and the process must continue.”

State law specifies that the party chairmen from the 17th District’s nine counties now must choose a substitute candidate within five days of being notified by the state chairman. Mr. Harvey said he’d spoken with State Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo on Wednesday morning, which gives them through next Tuesday to pick the replacement.

“She was getting in contact with us to let us know the process,” he explained. “What happens is, of the nine counties in the congressional district, they’ll be on the conference call, chairmen or state committeemen. The Florida party is going to facilitate … everything.

Everyone who’s interested that’s thrown in their hat will have a chance to speak their piece.

After such, either state committee people or chairmen — I’m not sure which; that will be up to the Florida party — will decide (who will be the new nominee).”

Mr. Harvey said Mrs. Freeman had the party’s full support and that he wasn’t picking sides on any potential candidate.

“The only thing I don’t know is, what vetting does the candidate have to go through. These people that are wanting to run, before they can be picked by us, do they need to be pre-vetted through the supervisors of elections? That’s one thing that I asked. They were going to get back to us on that,” he finished.

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