BRADENTON -- It's only April, but the Nov. 4 municipal election cycle is off to a rocky start after Ward 3 candidate Paul Thomas filed to challenge incumbent Patrick Roff.
According to Thomas, Roff was none too happy to see Thomas after his seat on the Bradenton City Council he has held since 2006.
"He came after me like a dog after a piece of meat," said Thomas, who referenced a phone call he said Roff made to him after seeing he had filed to run.
Thomas also sent an email to the Bradenton Herald outlining the conversation, during which Thomas said Roff shouted at him and said he had more money than Thomas could ever hope to raise. Thomas said Roff claims the "wealthiest
and most powerful people in Bradenton" were supplying him with funds, and the smartest thing Thomas could do is to stop wasting his time.
Thomas claims Roff said that money and power always win and he has both.
"Is this what this has come to?" asked Thomas in an interview with the Herald.
Roff said Thomas' comments about wealth and power were "absolutely not true," but that he did have a conversation with Thomas.
"I know Paul and he's a friend," said Roff. "We had just talked two weeks prior to me finding out on the county website that he was running. I just wanted to know why he couldn't be man enough to tell me face to face."
The 63-year-old Thomas is a retired Florida National Guardsman and retired public works employee with the City of Bradenton.
He said he decided to run because since moving to Bradenton in 1953, he is slowly watching the city's infrastructure fall into disrepair.
"It's not happening fast," said Thomas. "It's gradual, but you can see the streets in disrepair and sidewalks buckling everywhere. I'm not sure we aren't spending money on where we should be, such as infrastructure."
When asked if he had a plan in mind to address infrastructure issues, Thomas said he would closely watch the budgetary process to ensure infrastructure is appropriately addressed, but more importantly, "I would just ask people what they need. Nobody asks what they need anymore. When was the last time a city councilman came to the door and asked what you needed? I will do that."
Roff said Thomas' platform of infrastructure was brand new because when "I asked why he was running, he said 'I don't know.' "
Thomas said he was shocked at Roff's behavior because the two became friends when the city's employees union backed Roff in the prior election.
"I want to continue this campaign but I don't want it to become a smear thing," said Thomas. "if it gets to that point, then I'm out of here."
Roff said he intends to run a clean campaign but takes elections very seriously.
"Paul doesn't understand what it takes to run to a campaign," he said. "I'm not talking the guy down. I like the guy. I just don't think he knows what he's getting himself into. Campaigns are tough. They are not fun. But now that I have an opponent, I'm going to run a first-class campaign and not take anything for granted."
As of the first quarter of 2014, Roff has already raised $14,935, with more than $11,000 raised in March. He has 35 donors listed with donations ranging from $35 to $1,000. He has three $1,000 donors, all listed as being home builders.
Also in March, Roff has listed $2,781 in expenditures, including a catered campaign event March 20 that cost $1,554.
Thomas has not reported any financial activity by his campaign.
Roff resides in the Ware's Creek subdivision on Virginia Drive, while Thomas resides close to the subdivision on 24th Street West.
Ward 2 Councilman member Gene Brown and Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith have also filed to retain their seats, with no challengers yet in the mix.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.