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Candidate's death causes some ballot confusion in District 17

October 23, 2018
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Democratic primary victor April Freeman was poised and ready to take on Republican Greg Steube in the District 17 U.S. House race on Nov. 6.

Her untimely death last month not only left those who knew her bereaved, it forced the Democratic Party to name someone to run in her place.

On Oct. 1, the Florida Democratic Party selected Allen Ellison as its designee to fill the vacancy in nomination. But because it is too late to change the General Election ballot, the ballot will not reflect Ellison's name. Thus, a vote cast for April Freeman will count for Allen Ellison. A vote cast for Greg Steube will, of course, count for Greg Steube.

U.S. Congressional District 17 encompasses northern Lee County - including North Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch, Alva and parts of Lehigh Acres and Buckingham - as well as parts of Polk, Highlands, Hardee, Hillsborough, DeSoto, Okeechobee, Charlotte, Manatee, and Glades counties, making this one of the largest districts in the state in terms of geography.

Allen Ellison

Age: 37

Residence: Avon Park

Occupation: Economic activist

Obviously, Allen Ellison did not expect to be in this situation, and was doing his own thing when he learned of Freeman's death.

"I got a call from someone who said I should put my name in the hat. I got some pushback from some, but others said I should go for it," Ellison said. "Well, here we are."

Ellison's platform is very similar to Freeman's.

"We're both about helping seniors with Medicare, affordable health insurance and care for our veterans. We have a similar stance on jobs and our economy, on safer gun laws," Ellison said. "One place where I'm more of a champion is disability. I fight for those people because there isn't enough leadership for those people."

Ellison said supports women's rights regarding equal pay for equal work with other issues including citrus greening and cleaning up Lake Okeechobee.

Ellison said he would be an agent for the people and that he is the more qualified to represent them.

"Being able to be a representative, you have to know intimately, the issues that affect the community and be able to represent those issues," Ellison said. "My opponent said he would go to Washington and uphold the president's agenda. One has to understand what the job requires and it does not require one to uphold the agenda of the executive branch."

Greg Steube

Age: 40

Residence: Sarasota

Occupation: State Sen. D-23, attorney

Greg Steube hasn't changed his strategy since Freeman's death. He sent out a statement of condolences, cancelled some events out of respect, and is now campaigning as the race goes into the home stretch.

"I had never met Mrs. Freeman and never heard from her campaign. Pausing the campaign seemed right given the circumstances," Steube said. "Me and Ellison met at a forum in Polk County. I put forward my stance on the issues and he's to the left."

Steube has been a state representative for six years and is the current state senator. He now wants to serve his nation in Congress.

"I've always wanted to use the experiences I've had. We can do things at the state level, but the majority of veteran and defense policy is at the federal level," Steube said.

Steube said his platform is very much aligned with the Trump agenda. He's for protecting the Second Amendment, building a wall on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out, and defending a pro-life agenda.

Steube also said that with all the uncertainty regarding which party will control the House, it's hard to know what he would be doing.

"Immigration is probably one of the most important issues. Those are among the things I want to work on," Steube said. "A lot of the work will be decided on by the heads of the committees, whoever is in charge of the House."

Steube said being a cattle rancher in a district that is among the largest agriculture districts in the nation, along with his military and governmental background, give him the edge.

"Having someone with an agriculture background is very important as is my background serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and in government," Steube said. "My opponent doesn't have that background. With what's going on right now, it's important to have someone with that kind of background."

Election officials encourage those who did not request and receive a vote-by-mail ballot to take advantage of early voting.

In Lee County there are 10 locations for Early Voting, which will continue through Nov. 3, including weekends.

The sites are the same as for the Primary and include Cape Coral Elections Office, 1039 SE 9th Avenue; Cape Coral Lee County Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace; Northwest Regional Library, 519 Chiquita Boulevard, North; Lee County Elections Center, 13180 S. Cleveland Ave.; North Fort Myers Recreation Center, 2000 N. Recreation Parkway; Fort Myers Regional Library, 2450 First Street; Lee County Elections Bonita Springs Branch Office, 25987 S. Tamiami Trail No. 105; Veterans Park Recreation Center, 55 S. Homestead Road; Estero Recreation Center, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd. and East County Regional Library, 881 Gunnery Road N.

The sites are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.



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