Campaign team drops Sarasota candidate Matthew Wooddall days before elections


Just four days ahead of city elections in Sarasota, Democratic City Commission District 3 candidate Matthew Wooddall has been dropped by Keen Campaigning, the consulting firm directing his campaign amid revelations that Wooddall misled Keen and others about his employment history.

“I’ve worked on more than 100 races up and down the ballot all over Florida and I’ve never come across this situation before,” Andrew Torkelson, a political consultant with Keen, told Florida Politics. 

The bizarre turn of events has blown a competitive three-way race — among Wooddall, Republican Stan Zimmerman and Democrat Shelli Freeland Eddie — wide open.

In discussions with the firm — and in campaign finance and qualifying filings — Wooddall indicated that his primary source of income came from work in “Freelance Property Management,” as well as dividends from a trust fund in the name of John Cotton. That contradicts information in a profile published Thursday, in which he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that he quit that line of work back in 2012.

Wooddall reportedly told Torkelson, who informed Wooddall the firm was cutting ties with him Thursday evening, that he thought questions about sources of personal income inquired as to his “occupation,” rather than his sources of income per se. “Everybody has their own opinion on what you can consider an occupation if you haven’t done that for three years, I suppose,” Torkelson said.

No one seems to know for sure exactly how Wooddall does occupy himself, but it appears likely that the independently wealthy Wooddall lives off of the trust fund. His campaign has been largely self-financed. Per Torkelson, Wooddall now says he is a full-time candidate.

According to Sarasota Democratic Party Treasurer Rita Ferrandino, the party is not (yet) asking for Wooddall to withdraw, despite irregularities that could lead to impeachment or resignation should he win the election on Tuesday.

“Campaign teams and candidates have conflicts all the time,” said former county party chairwoman Ferrandino, downplaying the news. “I’m not in a position to judge. [Keen] put out an allegation and the candidate should have some say as well.”

Wooddall did not return messages or calls requesting comment Friday afternoon.

The recent developments could prove to be a boon to Freeland Eddie, a former prosecutor who so far has been splitting Democratic support with Wooddall in her bid to take out Zimmerman, the incumbent. A history professor at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Zimmerman was appointed to the office this past fall after former City Commissioner Shannon Snyder resigned to run for the County Commission.

A substantial number of ballots have already been cast — about 800 in a race won by a margin of 704 to 465 in 2011.

“So many votes have been cast already, who knows what this might change?” Torkelson said.

Ryan Ray

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at [email protected].


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