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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘If you like freedom’: Wichita State alum and former employee runs for Congress

Photo courtesy of Esau Freeman

With tattoos from his knuckles to his neck, Esau Freeman doesn’t look like your typical politician, although he may dress the part.

Freeman is running as a Democrat for the United States House of Representatives in Kansas’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Sedgwick County. 

His opponent is incumbent Ron Estes, a Republican who has been in his role since 2017. 

Freeman’s campaign platform includes protecting abortion access, preserving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, marijuana legalization, gun violence prevention and “fair taxation.” 

Freeman’s never been in federal office, although he has run once before, but he said he has a long history of standing up for what he thinks is right.

“I’ve just always been that person that speaks up,” he said. “I like to be involved in things. I like helping. And for me, that’s kind of just the wind beneath my wings; that you know you’re doing something good in society.”

Freeman studied art education, then studio art at Wichita State, but said he never had a clear direction for his career until he got involved in advocacy. 

After working several different jobs, Freeman became a maintenance painter at the WSU. He said he noticed a gap in leadership in the union that represents the maintenance employees, so he stepped up. 

Since then, he’s also advocated for legalized marijuana, and he co-founded Kansas for Change, a nonprofit working for reform of cannabis laws in Kansas. 

This advocacy led him to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. He said he got inspired to run after his mother passed away from leukemia after taking Humira for arthritis. 

Studies suggest either rheumatoid arthritis or drugs used to treat it, like Humira, may increase the risk of certain cancers. Cannabis, meanwhile, may help to treat arthritis and other conditions that cause chronic pain, reducing the need for such medications. 

“What really struck me was because of the laws, she always thought marijuana was this terrible, terrible thing,” Freeman said. “And so she wouldn’t ever take it for her arthritis and different stuff like that. That just kind of set me on this course of (thinking), ‘Somebody’s got to start speaking up for things that people really care about.’”

And Freeman said he knew that was a change that needed to happen on the federal level. But he lost the senate race to Robert Tillman. 

“It was a test the waters, get your message out kind of thing,” Freeman said.

Since then, he’s continued to be involved with the Sedgwick County Democratic Party, serving as treasurer and vice chair, and as a delegate to the Kansas Democratic Party. He also works as a business representative for the Service Workers International Union.

He described his current work for the union as “sitting in the principal’s office” to help mediate between businesses and their workers. 

“Which is a very comfortable place for me, because I spent most of my childhood in either the principal’s office or in- school suspension,” Freeman said. 

Despite being passionate about the work he’s doing now, Freeman has congress in his sights again, still hoping to help legalize marijuana at the federal level. He said what he wants people to know most about him as a candidate is that he places a lot of value in personal freedom, whether it’s reproductive access, marijuana or gun rights. 

“If you want freedom, vote for Freeman,” he said.

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About the Contributor
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.

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