June 6, 2012

Election 2012: Pollard a moderate, idealist

The Yale-educated business owner says those qualities and others would make him an effective U.S. senator.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Tenth in a series profiling the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.

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Benjamin Pollard has a photo of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, for whom he holds great respect, in his office.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Benjamin Pollard

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ASK A QUESTION

BENJAMIN POLLARD will answer your questions live at pressherald.com today at noon.

BENJAMIN POLLARD

PARTY: Democrat

AGE: 39

HOME: Portland

FAMILY: Single

OCCUPATION: Owner of Pollard Builders, a general contractor

EDUCATION: 1995 graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in international relations; 2004 graduate of Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a master's degree in environmental management

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

ON THE ISSUES

Do you support President Obama’s health care law? No

Do you support a balanced budget amendment? No

Would you support a tax increase for the wealthy? Yes

Would you vote to extend the nation’s debt limit? Yes

Do you support legalizing gay marriage? Yes

Do you support legal access to abortion? No, except in limited circumstances

What should Congress be doing to create jobs and improve the economy? “Congress should expand opportunities for service in the armed forces, the Peace Corps and a domestic civilian service corps. Regulations and tax policies affecting entrepreneurs must be dramatically streamlined and simplified to promote growth in the private sector. Congress should create policies to promote sustainable industries such as renewable energy, organic agriculture and environmentally friendly construction, and invest in infrastructure, particularly a nationwide rail network.”

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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Today's poll: Primary voting

Are you likely to vote in the June 12 primary?

Yes

No

View Results