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Activist mirror of Perot

Does anybody else out there think of Ross Perot when they see Fred Thomas, and vice versa?

Perot is running for president and Thomas may be running for . . . well, I'll get to that in a minute.

Just think about it. Perot is a self-made Texas billionaire, Thomas a self-made Clearwater millionaire. Both obviously are shrewd businessmen with lots of smarts and savvy, not to mention chutzpah.

But the similarities don't end there. Both Perot and Thomas are outspoken and opinionated. They're both full of ideas, some of them good, although they're not always real careful with their facts.

Neither of them takes criticism too easily and both may be a little too thin-skinned for the political arena.

Both Perot and Thomas seem to have a problem with the press, not quite sure why reporters think they have the right to ask tough questions.

You could call them mavericks. Some think that in public office they would be autocrats.

Perot is marching along with his United We Stand volunteers. Thomas has just started a march with his Save The Bayfront volunteers.

Perot and Thomas. You're not always sure where they're coming from, and you can't be sure where they would take you.

And that leads into Thomas' possible political aspirations. Is Save The Bayfront a springboard for a Clearwater mayoral race?

"I don't have the slightest idea whether I should run for public office," Thomas said when I put the question to him last week. "I don't know if I have the time or the temperament." (Good point.)

"A business," he said, "is a benign dictatorship. Going into public office, that's a different world."

Thomas cited Jack Eckerd as one who excelled as a business executive but failed as a political candidate. "He was totally cultured in a dictatorship," Thomas said.

But first things first. Thomas said he is going to devote all of his attention now to the Save The Bayfront campaign to defeat the Nov. 3 referendum that would authorize the city to sell part of the Maas Brothers property to the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center.

Then, come January, "I'm going to think about it (the mayor's race)," he said. He also acknowledged that City Hall could be just the beginning if he does get into politics. "You always want to grow. The first place to start would be in the city."

As for the Maas referendum, Thomas said, "It bugs me when government tries to maneuver me into a corner. They didn't have to do that," referring to the fact that the ballot question gives voters only a yes-or-note choice on the art center. He had argued before the City Commission that a straw-vote list of various options for the Maas property should be on the ballot.

Thomas is said to favor commercial development on the top of the bluff, fronting Osceola Avenue all the way from Cleveland to Drew streets.

The Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce shares those sentiments but has not urged its members to vote no on Nov. 3. The chamber has said the art center could be a part of any bluff-top development.

The Clearwater Downtown Development Board has called a special meeting for Thursday to discuss "a proposed informational mailing regarding the Maas property."

We could end up with some real strange bedfellows here. Hey, this is more fun than the presidential election campaign, which really isn't fun at all anymore.

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