U.S. House of Representative hopefuls Esau Freeman and Robert Tillman plan to use their life experiences and stances on jobs to draw attention and ballots as they face off next month for the Democratic nomination in the states 4th Congressional District.
Im a firm believer that its time for the Democrats and people in general to stand up and say what they want changed, said Freeman, 38, who plans to win over constituents by campaigning door-to-door and by giving a voice to (the) working-class Kansans.
He plans to focus his campaign on providing jobs with a living wage and giving unskilled laborers a chance to learn on the job rather than in high-priced technical schools.
I think its going to come down to who can best describe that and put that into action, he said.
Tillman, a self-proclaimed strong Democrat, also called for an end to unfair representation of corporations and the rich by current legislators. He, too, plans to focus his congressional bid on jobs instead of wasting taxpayer money on push-button issues such as health care.
Republicans need to accept the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as the law of the land, said Tillman, 65. The people should be up in arms about Republicans trying to take their health care away from them.
Tillman says he backs what the Democrats are trying to do with our jobs program and Washington, and making loans accessible to small businesses.
Freeman and Tillman show few differences on most key issues. Both support the Affordable Care Act, want to end the Bush-era tax cuts and want to reduce the nations $15 trillion debt by raising taxes. Both support womens rights and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Despite similar platforms, the candidates remain split in at least two areas: same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana.
The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face incumbent Mike Pompeo, a Republican, and Libertarian candidate Thomas Jefferson in the Nov. 6 general election.
Same-sex marriage, legalizing marijuana
Freeman says he actively advocates for full marriage equality for gay couples. But thats different from the views he says he harbored during his teens and early 20s.
I was guilty of all of the horrible things that people think about that dont like gays, Freeman said. By the time I turned about 26 I began to understand how its about their (same-sex couples) rights to be happy, have families and to contribute to society.
While Freeman supports equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, Tillman remains reserved, saying he might back those who advocate for same-sex marriage. He, however, has no current plans to advocate for equal marriage legislation himself.
Tillman said he has not yet fully accepted the issue of gay marriage, but said gay rights should be improved so same-sex couples are privy to everything that other couples enjoy.
I dont believe in discriminating against others, Tillman said.
While both candidates support the legalization of marijuana, their differences lie in the proposed time frame for fully legalizing the drug, which is sometimes prescribed to ease chronic pain.
Freeman calls for a slow introduction of marijuana, allowing doctors to be its gatekeepers for a few years to ensure that the science is correct, he said.
Tillman, however, contends that allowing partial legalization for medical purposes would lead to further complications. He supports immediate, full legalization of the drug.
Its a God-given drug, produced and grown naturally and used that way, mostly, he said.
In recent months, Freeman has faced financial trouble. He is due back in court next month to handle a petition filed by Citibank to collect on a $1,822 credit card bill.
Freeman said he got behind on payments when customers dwindled at his house painting business, Esau Freeman Painting, and the bank refused to accept less than $200 to keep the account current. He said he expects to pay the bill after his wife, Kamielle Freeman, who recently earned her masters degree, starts teaching in August.
Theres nothing to hide here, he said. They are all debts that need to get paid, but Im kind of in the red right now.
Tillman also faced court over unpaid debt. In 2010, Preferred Pet Imaging of Kansas filed a petition to collect $2,750 for a procedure Tillman says his health insurance provider refused to pay for. He said he paid the balance due around August 2010 after the court entered a judgment against him.
Tillman said he received the procedure on the advice of his doctor and was appealing the insurance companys decision when Preferred Pet Imaging filed the petition.
This gives me the opportunity to talk about the patient relationship with their doctor and the intervention of the insurance companies, which he said he does not support.
This is Tillmans second bid for the District 4 seat after losing the 2010 Democratic primary to former Kansas state Rep. Raj Goyle, who lost to Pompeo in the general election. He has not held political office.
The congressional race is Freemans first, which he maintains is a strength against compromising certain principles, such as honesty.
The 4th Congressional District represents voters in 17 south-central and southeastern Kansas counties, including Sedgwick County, following state redistricting earlier this year.