Tenth in a series profiling the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.
PORTLAND – Benjamin Pollard knows he sometimes sounds like a Republican.
That’s why he believes he’s the best Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
In the Fore Street office of his eco-conscious construction company, the 39-year-old Ivy League-educated business owner pulls out a binder and points to the breakdown of American voters by party: 31 percent Democratic, 29 percent Republican, 38 percent independent.
People are getting fed up with extremism, Pollard said, and more are moving toward the middle.
“I think the parties need to adapt … and I think nominating me would be a big step in the right direction,” he said.
But first, people have to know who he is.
As far as elected office goes, Pollard’s political experience is limited to student government and a stint on the Planning Board in his hometown of Blue Hill.
For that type of candidate, “the first thing (he) needs to do is develop a certain level of name recognition,” said Mark Brewer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine.
Pollard, who admittedly has “a really hard time asking people for money,” has been trying to do it on the cheap — through the Internet.
It’s a strategy that “gives relatively unknown candidates more opportunities today than before we had social media,” said Brewer, who declined to comment on Pollard as a candidate because he didn’t know enough about him.
Pollard, whose Facebook page has 82 likes and whose Twitter account has 41 followers, said he knows his vision will have to “catch fire” for him to have a shot at the nomination.
“I hope that my uplifting, positive message of the dawn of a new era of peace and ecological sustainability will inspire people,” he said.
Pollard grew up in Blue Hill, where he attended a Waldorf-inspired Bay School from third to eighth grade. Because his class of four was always the oldest, “we never developed much respect for authority,” he said with a smile.
He graduated from George Stevens Academy and attended Stanford University, where he joined the student environmental activist group and had a talk radio show called “Green Planet.”
He worked for a few years for newspapers near his hometown, with a 16-month hitchhiking trip to South America somewhere in the middle, then went on to get a master’s degree at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Portland-based Pollard Builders was born seven years ago, and building the business has been the main focus of its eponymous president, who lives alone in an apartment on the Eastern Promenade.
As Pollard watched the drawn-out debates in Congress over the debt ceiling and budget deficit, he was inspired to run for U.S. Senate.
Although confidants urged him to get some experience at the state level first, an encouraging conversation with a friend, Jago Macleod, one day in January gave Pollard the confidence to go for the Senate seat.
He declared his candidacy early the next morning to a group of swimmers he trains with at the Greely High School pool.
Pollard believes in small central government and fewer regulations for businesses. “I tend to be wary of government intervention in people’s lives,” he said.
He also has a portrait of Bobby Kennedy, his hero, hanging in his office.
Aside from Kennedy’s role in the Cuban missile crisis and “saving the world from Armageddon,” Pollard said, the late Democratic senator’s youthful idealism is what he admires most about him.
He hopes that’s a quality voters recognize in him, too.
Expanding the Peace Corps and incentivizing energy-efficient construction are parts of Pollard’s plan to reinvigorate the economy. He believes in herbal medicine, yoga and acupuncture as ways to improve the health of Americans, which would lower the cost of care.
He also wants to see a nationwide railway.
Pollard supports strengthening the national defense, and hopes to join the Navy himself.
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder has disqualified him in the past, but Pollard believes he was misdiagnosed and is working on enlisting. Ideally, he says, he would be serving overseas while also serving in the Senate, which he believes would give him, or any other politician, a better perspective on what’s happening in the Middle East.
It would also keep him out of Washington, where Pollard isn’t all that comfortable.
For a summer during college, he served an internship with the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment.
“There was something about the feel of the place,” he said. He didn’t like it.
“It’s more out of a sense of civic responsibility than a desire to be part of that scene,” Pollard said of his reason for running.
He believes he has the right knowledge, beliefs and demeanor to cross party lines and bring an end to the division in Congress.
Recalling the conversation that prompted Pollard to run, his friend, Macleod, describes him as the rare type of person who listens to people when they talk.
“The person you conjure up when you read the news and you think, ‘Who? Who could fix all this?’ ” Macleod said. “He’s the guy you think of.”
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: