Vinny Angiolillo knows people think he's crazy, and he's OK with that.
He likes it, in fact.
The second-time candidate for Collier County sheriff says it's part of his campaign strategy. Especially if that opinion is held by the incumbent sheriff, Kevin Rambosk.
"Kevin said everything I'm talking about is crazy. Perfect," Angiolillo said. "I guess it's working 100 percent. Actually, 1,000 percent. But let him think that. Let him think he's going to win this campaign."
Angiolillo, a local businessman and Army veteran running without party affiliation, has referred to himself as the future sheriff and said recently that he's beating Rambosk "like he's never been beat before."
But Angiolillo does not have history on his side.
In 2008, when Angiolillo ran on the Republican ticket, he took about 5 percent of the vote, compared to Rambosk's 74 percent and private investigator Victor Ortino's 20 percent. Angiolillo raised eyebrows in that election by riding down Airport-Pulling road on the back of an African elephant to draw attention to his campaign.
He is running once again against an FBI National Academy graduate with 34 years of public service, who was Naples city manager and police chief before joining the Sheriff's Office in 2003.
Angiolillo, on the other hand, has been out of law enforcement since he was a state police officer in Connecticut in the 1970s. But the 61-year-old owner of Class Act Limousine says his involvement with the community is as good of a credential as any. He discredits his opponent's education and experience.
"Education is baseless, especially in today's economy," Angiolillo said. "What does he know about law enforcement? He hasn't been on the road in 30 years. … To flaunt his experience is penniless. It's worthless.
"I talk to everybody in the community. I have the pulse of this community."
A few months after his 2008 shellacking, Angiolillo filed paperwork to run again in 2012. He figures he can easily bridge the gap from 5 percent to a majority with one key factor: his opposition to the county's red-light traffic cameras. Although county commissioners are the body responsible for the contract with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that has operated the cameras since April 2009, Angiolillo says being sheriff will give him the authority he needs to remove them.
"I'm going to rip 'em out of the ground physically," he explained. "The sheriff … has autonomy over everything."
The candidate also says he will refund taxpayers who have previously been ticketed for red-light violations. "There's plenty of money" in the Sheriff's Office budget, or there will be when he terminates upper command staff, he said.
Angiolillo expects voters will positively respond to his stance on the cameras.
"That's 43,000 votes right there," he said, explaining that his campaign sent mailers to that number of registered voters who have been ticketed in Collier County.
Angiolillo said he hopes Rambosk's campaign is resting on its laurels while he stands on busy street corners wearing a pair of boxing gloves because he's "fighting for people's constitutional rights."
"We're not overly concerned with Vinny," said Rambosk campaign spokeswoman Cyndee Woolley. "Sheriff Rambosk is standing on his merits and the successes of our community ... and we look forward to another four years."
This year, Angiolillo is reusing 2008 campaign materials and refusing to accept campaign donations, considering them a bribe. He contributed $20 to this year's campaign, compared to the $68,000 the 58-year-old Rambosk has raised.
And he's OK with that, too.
"Everybody values things on money," he said. "It all means nothing when you're on your deathbed. I'm going to prove to the general public that I am a pauper, that I am worth zero right now. And I'm running against a millionaire that's been on the government dole for 30 years now.
"And I'm going to beat him."