Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

Ocala Democrat enters U.S. House District 11 race

How interested is David Koller in the machinations of the federal government? Interested enough to record C-SPAN so he can watch floor debates and committee meetings after work.

Watching Washington, D.C., from the comfort of his living room used to be enough for the 43-year-old Ocala business owner. Now he's running for Congress.

Koller is the third person and first Democrat to file to challenge Spring Hill Republican Rep. Rich Nugent, who is seeking a third term next year.

He said he has grown increasingly frustrated with the partisan gridlock in national politics.

"I tell my children that if you feel you can effect change for the better, then you have an obligation to do it," the married father of four said Wednesday. "This is a calling."

A native of Port Jefferson, N.Y., Koller moved to Florida in 1996 to work as a supported living coach for Arc Marion Inc. Two years later, he founded his own company, now called Developmental Service Trainers.

Using state and federal tax dollars and overseen by the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the for-profit company employs about 30 staffers who support and teach life skills to about 60 developmentally and physically disabled clients in Marion. Koller's wife, Victoria, is a co-owner and vice president. The couple have four daughters, ages 20, 18, 14 and 11.

Koller describes himself as a social progressive and fiscal conservative who would make a jobs bill a priority to improve the nation's schools and infrastructure. He said the tea party's obstructionists have hijacked the Republican Party and that Nugent's voting record on the debt ceiling and the budget have hurt underprivileged people in his district.

"I believe he marches to whatever the tea party wants and not constituents," Koller said. "It's an absolutist point of view."

In a statement, Nugent said he "ran as a conservative, was elected as a conservative, and I vote as a conservative," but is proud of his record working with Democrats to pass legislation on issues ranging from mental health to tax fraud.

"I look forward to a spirited debate with Mr. Koller about where the people of the 11th District stand on the size and scope of government," Nugent said.

A Democrat has an uphill climb in District 11, which leans Republican and includes Hernando, Citrus and Sumter counties and a portion of Marion County.

Two other political newcomers are also in the race. Matthew Schnackenberg is a 25-year-old retail worker and student from Masaryktown and a member of the Libertarian Party of Florida. Republican Michael Uminski, a 69-year-old retired engineer, lives in the Villages

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