ThomasAccusations fly in mild-mannered Brit's new flier
COLUMBIA, 3/10/13 (Beat Byte) -- Former PedNet director, physics Ph.D. and soft-spoken trail advocate Ian Thomas has launched a surprisingly negative opening salvo in the battle to unseat 4th Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley, accusing opponents of using the city's highest political office to settle scores and manipulate constituents.

"Which candidate deserves your vote?" Thomas' new campaign flier asks. "One who has axes to grind and grudges to repay?"
Though Thomas doesn't name his opponents in the mailer, at least three of four attack bites seem clearly aimed.  One opponent -- presumably Bill Weitkemper -- "focuses on a single issue," Thomas says. In Columbia, where City Hall has a monopoly on water, power, lights, parking, sewer, and garbage pickup, Weitkemper champions fair utility billing.
Thomas says another opponent -- presumably Mr. Dudley -- is "beholden only to the development community" and "manipulates redistricting for political gain." Dudley has come under fire for taking financial help from Columbia Chamber of Commerce honchos, and supporting a controversial plan to gerrymander sections of the 4th Ward that voted against him during the 2010 campaign (story below).
Thomas confirmed Weitkemper is the object of his grudge match accusation.

"In Bill's materials, comments at forums, and other situations, he is frequently critical of his former colleagues/superiors at the City and of various billing systems -- a campaign he has waged for several years," Thomas told the Heart Beat. "I think the Fourth Ward wants a Council representative with a positive approach and a much broader perspective."
Thomas' flier says he "upholds 4th Ward values" and "listens to his constituents."
The grudge match charge may originate with Thomas campaign manager Jeff Chinn. In a pitch to recruit 4th Ward candidates, Chinn reportedly said Weitkemper -- a longtime city employee -- was running because he had grudges to settle with former superiors who dismissed his complaints about unfair billing practices.
"Jeff Chinn, wannabe kingmaker, referred to Weitkemper as a 'loose cannon' and a 'nutcase,'" a source close to the recruitment effort told the Heart Beat. The attacks didn't stop with Weitkemper.

Chinn reportedly said another potential 4th Ward candidate, attorney Jeremy Root, "had insulted too many people" to be viable, the source added. "I guess Jeff's criticisms apply to anyone who speaks up in opposition to the Powers That Be."

Chinn told the Heart Beat "NO," he did not make the remarks about Weitkemper and Root, but declined to comment on the grudge match allegation.
Weitkemper won the first Ed Robb Public Service Award for his efforts to reform utility billing. Root publicly opposed blight and Ward gerrymandering, both unpopular moves that ultimately failed.