On the attack but trailing in fundraising, Robert Sullivan has thrown down the gauntlet to his former boss:
Sullivan, a retired lieutenant, sent a letter to the Sheriff Bob White on Wednesday proposing three town-hall style debates across the county before the Aug. 26 primary "wherein citizens may pose their questions directly to both of us."
White, who is seeking a third term, did not respond to Sullivan. Nor did he return messages left by the Times on Wednesday at his office and with his spokesman.
Throughout the campaign, Sullivan has publicly attacked White over matters such as the sheriff's honorary deputy program. Sullivan says the program is a political fundraising mechanism that insults certified deputies; White says it's his way of honoring people who give back to the community.
Sullivan also criticized the agency's policy allowing take-home cars for nonemergency personnel. White recently pulled 50 such cars off the road but said it was a money-saving move unrelated to Sullivan's attack.
In proposing the debates, Sullivan said he wants to face White in forums where residents ask the questions.
"Whatever concerns the people in the neighborhoods and the subdivisions have, let those be the topics," he said. "I really think that it would be a legitimate, good discourse for us to have."
While he's generated plenty of publicity with the issues he has raised, Sullivan hasn't nearly matched White in fundraising. The most recent campaign reports show White with nearly $140,000 through March. Sullivan had raised about $10,000 and said Wednesday he thinks the figure may now be closer to $20,000.
A debate for school board and sheriff candidates has been scheduled for Aug. 11 at Pasco Middle School, hosted by several area chambers of commerce. Sullivan said he hadn't heard of that debate but would attend.
The primary is Aug. 26. White also has two Democratic challengers and another running under no party affiliation.
Sullivan's letter asked White to respond to his proposal by July 1.
"I'm not encouraged," Sullivan said. "I don't think he's going to accept the challenge to debate, and further I don't think he's going to respond to my letter.
"It's been apparent his best approach to me is to ignore me."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6245.