The Coppola-Matthes race dissected

Before we relegate the 2011 Port Orchard mayor’s race to the category of “water over the dam,” I will take one last whack at the question of whether negative campaign ads contributed to Tim Matthes’ 5-vote victory over incumbent Lary Coppola.
Coppola came into the home stretch of his campaign with a track record of accomplishments the city has made on his watch, a long list of endorsements from business owners, community leaders and other elected officials, and substantial campaign funding.
Coppola raised and spent nearly $15,000, about three times as much as Matthes.
Matthes’ campaign contributions, most of which came as loans to himself, were below the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission’s $5,000 threshold for detailed reporting, available on the PDC’s website.
An anti-Coppola campaign mounted by People for a Better Port Orchard raised and spent just more than $2,800 on mailers designed to erode Coppola’s credibility.
One flier suggested Coppola exaggerated his role in reducing the city’s crime rate. Another criticized the mayor for requesting (and getting) more than the city had offered for a piece of property he owned on Tremont Street that is to be condemned.
The same flier bemoaned a water rate increase hammered out on Coppola’s watch and slammed the mayor for suggesting to the council early on in his term that the mayor’s position should be full-time, with commensurate compensation.
The council, excepting Fred Chang, agreed. Chang supported the concept of a full-time mayor but said the timing was off given the recession. Chang, head of the lodging tax advisory committee, also objected to the plan at the time to partially fund the increase with hotel-motel tax revenue, which is earmarked for tourism. Chang called the proposal “awkward, although it probably is legal.”
All other council members, except Fred Olin who was absent, voted for the change, which effectively tripled Coppola’s salary.
Although he had no direct say it the matter, and although the new salary was about equivalent to what the Mayor of Poulsbo makes, it created negative PR that has stuck to Coppola’s shoe throughout his term in office.
“He suggested it,” said Nancy Howson, a Matthes supporter. “I didn’t feel good about that. So many people are struggling. I just thought the timing was bad.”
P4P cited their sources, including local news publications and Port Orchard Police Department reports, with links on their website, www.letlarygo.com.
As the fliers came out, Matthes distanced himself from P4P, saying he had neither known of nor condoned their efforts.
Chang was the largest donor among the largest donors to the anti-Coppola group, giving a total of $500. Also donating $500 were Jon Yamamura and Steve Sego, who lists his address as the residence owned by Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson.
Donating $250 was Gil Michael, whom Matthes called “my right-hand guy” on Dec. 6, the night his victory was confirmed.
Chang and Michael also donated directly to Matthes’ campaign. Chang gave $167 of in-kind goods or services. Michael gave $250.
Matthes, on his campaign website, made a point of saying he discouraged endorsements and large campaign contributions that could make a candidate beholden to interest groups, large corporations or people who live outside the city. He had a self-imposed contribution limit of $200 for individuals and $500 for organizations.
“My Grandmother Sylvia always said, ‘If you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised if you get up with fleas,’” Matthes wrote in a statement about campaign contributions on his website. “Check out candidates’ websites to see if you can tell who will be given special favors in the future.”
Whether Matthes realized it or not, the literal effect of his limiting campaign contributions and his denial of affiliation with P4P allowed both his campaign and the anti-Coppola group to fly under the radar so to speak.
Had either group raised more than $5,000, detailed records of their contributors and expenditures would have been readily available throughout the campaign on the Washington Public Disclosure Commission’s website.
As it was, the law provided for access to those records as follows: anyone interested could contact the campaign or group in person during the eight business days preceding the election.
All perfectly legal, but the effect, it seemed, was to fuel a rumor mill that turned toxic in the last few weeks of the campaign.
According to Lori Anderson of the PDC, Port Orchard was one of several places around the state where in-person records reviews resulted in ugly confrontations.
Anderson said word trickled down to the PDC that Coppola’s wife Dee was firmly asked to leave the premises of the printing company used by P4P.
And so it went in a race that has driven a wedge between two former allies.
Whether the fliers had any substantive effect on the race remains open to debate.
Significantly, Coppola lost votes in 2011 in the city’s four original precincts (earning 810 votes total), as compared with the support he received in 2007 (1,103 votes), when there was a far smaller turnout.
Voters in McCormick Woods, the city’s newest neighborhood, helped make up the difference (620 votes total in 2011). But it wasn’t enough.
Coppola disparaged the P4P fliers, calling their content “blatant lies.”
Anderson, to whom I sent copies of the fliers, couldn’t comment on Coppola’s assertion. The PDC would dig down into the weeds only if a formal complaint against P4P were filed, which hasn’t happened to date, she said.
A civil suit for damages would be a separate option open to anyone who believes campaign materials have crossed the threshold of the state’s prohibition against materials that are “false,” “libelous” or “defamatory,” Anderson added.
The upshot of any challenge would not change the outcome of the election, Anderson said.
Incidentally, in 2007 the state’s Supreme Court found Washington State’s law prohibiting false political advertising to be unconstitutional. The decision pertained to the case that pitted former Green Party candidate Marylou Rickert of Shelton against the PDC, which fined her $1,000 after deciding she deliberately made false statements about the voting record of state Sen. Tim Sheldon in his 2002 re-election campaign.
The 2009 Legislature reasserted the state’s right to ban false political advertising, but added the provisions that it must be “libelous” or “defamatory,” apparently to mollify free speech advocates. The PDC hasn’t received any complaints about false ads since the 2009 law, Anderson said.
The transition of power at city hall — or lack thereof — has been painful to watch, with public jabs and parting shots from both camps.
I know I’m arriving a little late to this party — weighing in at the 11th hour as it were — but I think it’s safe to say that Port Orchard is ready to move on.
Larry Stokes, who supported Matthes but considers himself a friend of both candidates, put it this way:
“I think we’re lucky we got them both. I would hope Tim and Lary bury the hatchet and Tim relies on him for some advice and so forth and so on, and we all live happily ever after in Port Orchard.

More P4P docs here and here.

18 thoughts on “The Coppola-Matthes race dissected

  1. Fred Chang sent me this email on Wednesday, explaining his support of P4P.

    “Lary is a master at publicizing his versions, but is not always accurate. I was intrigued by the idea of a group putting out accurate information, credited to news reports, and was happy to support their efforts.”

    Chris Henry, reporter

  2. Fred Chang needs to go away, he has hurt our city so very bad! The dirty politics that went on and a lack of voters voting is why Larry lost the vote.

    The people of Port Orchard need to get rid of Fred Chang, the excutive director and her daughter.

  3. I agree with you Mary. Fred Chang is now standing in to much sewage to be of any good use to anyone except those he’s now beholden to and that whouldn’t be the citizens of Port Orchard. Sold his sole and now he should be gone…

  4. Larry Coppola is known for:

    1.) Tripling his salary
    2.) Annexing Fred Meyer to pay for his raise
    3.) Annexing McCormick Woods
    4.) Getting a DUI after drinking in McCormick Woods.

    Downtown looks no different then it did 4 years ago, there was a paint job though – that wasn’t the mayor’s thing and everybody knows that.

    Why would he get re-elected?

  5. http://www.westsoundpolitics.blogspot.com/2011/12/post-election-commentary.html

    Here’s the latest from our DUI Loser:

    “The people who financed the smear campaign are Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang, Cedar Cove Inn owner Gil Michael, Port Orchard Chamber Executive Coreen Johnson’s boyfriend, Steve Sego, as well as her daughter Rebeka — the sleaze campaign’s treasurer — and her son Joshua. Also donating were Military Air Cargo owner John Yamamura, along with County Assessor Jim Avery’s wife Sue, South Kitsap School Board member Patty Henderson, Cappricio Catering owner Desiree Steffens, Pam Piper, and Morningside Bakery. CPA Dawn Jake paid for mailing one of those sleazy hit pieces, and her husband, who owns Bethel Towing, also contributed to the group. All the materials were printed by Fine Arts Litho. ”

    And then he follows that “I’ve decided to keep my personal opinions on the outcome, the new Mayor, the people who financed the smear campaign — as well as the City’s future — to myself. Publicizing them serves no useful purpose.”

    I think it’s very telling that when Lary runs on his record, his statistics don’t add up.

    And as I’ve stated elsewhere here, Lary received an additional 294 votes over the last election. That has two questions to consider. 1. Did Lary’s conduct bring more people into the process? 2. Was the vote against annexation in the election?

    I’ll say this for Lary, he’s motivated to do what benefits him, and his friends. He HAD a lot of friends until his DUI and his shady real estate deals.

    If Lary could get a handle on his personal failings and his attitude towards those he disagrees with, he would be a GREAT candidate and Commissioner for the county. He should take some time to work on those issues and come back swinging. If he can’t, then he was always full of it, and should have never been elected.

    Those are the issues which cost him the election.

  6. Several publications repeatedly stated that the writer of the flier against Coppola was a family member of Matthes’. If this is correct, then Matthes’ denials are false.

  7. Still trying to figure out how providing facts about an individual is considered a smear campaign. Maybe someone could enlighten us unenlightens with the false information that was supposedly stated about the outgoing mayor. If not, then quit with the smear stuff. I guess it is not called “campaigning” and instead called a “smear” if it’s your horse in the race who is getting dumped on.

  8. Port Orchard Resident,

    1) The City Council raised the Mayor’s salary. Mayor Abel requested an increase in salary as well, but the Council turned it down. They thought they could reverse it midterm, but apparently they don’t have a competent city attorney, because they were unable to do so, if they wanted to.

    2)Port Orchard Resident must be a Kitsap County Democrat, burning up about the lost Fred Meyer revenue. However are you going to pay for your new YMCA, the turf fields, and whatever largess the County Commissioners bestows on you, you faithful, democrat voting, county dwelling loyalists?

    3)Neighborhoods and subdivisions have to petition the City Council to be annexed. The majority of the residents of McCormick Woods did that.

    The “facts” of the flier are really just Fred Chang’s personal opinion. I remember him missing at least one city council meeting to attend a Kitsap County Democrat Party function, so consider the source. It doesn’t really matter what he says, action speak louder than words and he has “handlers”.

  9. “The people who financed the smear campaign are Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang, Cedar Cove Inn owner Gil Michael, Port Orchard Chamber Executive Coreen Johnson’s boyfriend, Steve Sego, as well as her daughter Rebeka — the sleaze campaign’s treasurer — and her son Joshua. Also donating were Military Air Cargo owner John Yamamura, along with County Assessor Jim Avery’s wife Sue, South Kitsap School Board member Patty Henderson, Cappricio Catering owner Desiree Steffens, Pam Piper, and Morningside Bakery. CPA Dawn Jake paid for mailing one of those sleazy hit pieces, and her husband, who owns Bethel Towing, also contributed to the group. All the materials were printed by Fine Arts Litho. ”

    Do any of the people listed in this post, besides Fred Chang and Mayor Gil, even live in Port Orchard?

    There is more to this community than the two blocks of downtown that seems to be what the bs posturing and drama are all about.

    The real residents of this community are the Navy veterans, teachers, the unemployed, criminals, the developmentally disables, affluent people, welfare recipients, and so on. None of the actual PO residents complained about the water rate hike because a neighborhood in this community is getting bad water and has for some time. And that’s what communities by way of government do. They pool their resources and when the infrastructure in one part of the community begins to break down, it is repaired or replaced. Our representatives on the City Council are tasked with overseeing these repairs and expenditures.

    The residents of Port Orchard apparently understand the equity in this Council action and the role of government. The little group of people attempting to manipulate and influence from behind the scenes are going to be surprised to find out the real residents of Port Orchard, Washington are probably not as beat down and malleable as they think they are.

  10. According to the PDC, Lary didn’t seem to mind non-residents when they were contributing to his campaign. The vast majority of his contributions came from non-PO city residents.

    PS – well said, Dave Dahlke

  11. I mind nonresidents getting involved in our community’s elections, I didn’t say Mayor Coppola minded.

    Whether you are for or against the outgoing Mayor, even you would have to admit there’s a difference between contributing to a campaign and forming a political action committee with the sole purpose of distributing negative campaign materials about one of the candidates.

  12. “”Whether you are for or against the outgoing Mayor, even you would have to admit there’s a difference between contributing to a campaign and forming a political action committee with the sole purpose of distributing negative campaign materials about one of the candidates.”

    You are so misinformed. I do not like Lary for his DUI and shady dealings. But as a non-resident, Lary did have an impact on me as a board officer of Kitsap Transit.

    I MIND and OBJECT to an unaccountable, unelected official budgeting and spending my tax dollars for transportation. I only have a vote on the sitting commissioners. The folks in the incorporated cities have their commissioner, plus their elected mayors. That’s a big detail.

    And while the loudmouths continue to complain about the stuff distributed against Lary, none of you have been able to prove that any of it is false, or a lie. Nobody has disputed the statistics as being false, or the email from Lary on raising his salary as being false. It’s because the stuff is accurate in it’s examination of Lary’s record. And quit naming the Port Orchard Independent as one who would defend Lary. DUH. They did that to sell newspapers. And has he bothered to go line by line, and disprove the accuracy of the allegations against Lary? NO he didn’t.

    There’s really no difference between a non resident and a resident, other than the power of the city to raise taxes, on the resident. Lary as Mayor, sat on many local boards, which impacted a lot of people across the entire county!

    Quit making sweeping generalizations about smear and negative campaigning. Make a solid accusation, or charge against the other campaign. The election was held on November 6th, and the recount earlier in the month. It’s over . Deal with it.

  13. If Lary was not responsible for his wage increase because the council did it, the he is not responsible for anything the council approved. By that measure just what did Lary do. One thig Lary is a master at is trying to have it both ways.

  14. dui, listen you little punk. I didn’t say a damn thing about the POI. I knew your real issue with Lary was the Transit Board. What a sore loser. You started harping on his legal issues over two years ago because of the way he treated you on the Transit Board? “There really is no difference between a non resident and a resident…” What a dumb thing to say.

    Larry Croix, I can see by your address the annexation issue is probably your beef with Lary? Do you even live in the Port Orchard city limits?

    I’m not going to discuss city business with nonresidents in the future. I think almost everyone involved in the political action committee debacle and the people commenting on the subject in the blogs are nonresidents of Port Orchard.

    Have a great New Year’s.

  15. “I’m not going to discuss city business with nonresidents in the future. I think almost everyone involved in the political action committee debacle and the people commenting on the subject in the blogs are nonresidents of Port Orchard.”

    You might want to rethink that. Have you looked at Lary’s campaign donations? A lot of them look like nonresidents of Port Orchard..

    http://www.pdc.wa.gov/MvcQuerySystem/CandidateData/contributions?param=Q09QUEwgIDM2Ng====&year=2011&type=local

    And there’s a lot of lawyers contributing to Lary’s campaign. Any chance his DUI layers donated?

    So in late December, you’re still mad that Lary LOST .
    Lary, lived on a boat for a year, so that he could establish RESIDENCY to run for Mayor . You’re ticked off because another group of commuting business owners, people not living in the city, worked on getting Lary voted out of office. It was done in a purely legal fashion.

    IF you’re going to constantly complain about it, still in late December, at least look at Lary’s campaign contributors. Furthermore, you’ve complained about the “negative and smear” campaign. Please give us one solid case where their stats and facts about Lary were wrong .

    Please use a designated driver!

  16. commuting business owners? What does that mean? If they don’t live in the city limits, hey can’t vote in our Mayoral election. They are not citizens of this city. If they don’t know how to conduct themselves like a resident of another community who owns a business in Port Orchard, they should move their business.

    I’m not mad Mayor Coppola lost. I haven’t complained about the “negative and smear” campaign. You must have me mixed up with someone else. I’m not constantly complaining about anything but you. You don’t live in Port Orchard. Mind your own business. And when you are calling Mayor Coppola a liar, examine your own motives. Turns out your problem is some professional career thing you thought you had going on with the Transit Board? Joke.

  17. The showdown at the copy shop is just too funny, and it’s not the first. What is it about copy centers that gets people all riled up? The copying and dissemination of information?

    Remember a few years back when a couple of the local ladies had a showdown at the Staples copy center? That featured another misguided nonresident, a former POI columnist, who was so angry in her personal life, she took it out on everyone. All that Paint The Town feigned good cheer and goodwill and she spent the culminating celebration in the beer garden, slandering people. You have something to say to me, beyotch, call me.

    I think I’m going to write a screenplay. I’m going to call it Showdown at the Copy Center. ducttape will be in it, obviously, I will probably have him faceless, nameless, and wearing a dunce cap, behaving in a kind of womanly, town crier fashion, pretending he’s upset about one thing when it’s really another. So womanly.

    Come to think of it, most of the players in this P4BPO are women, or womanly men. I think women haven’t been serving in professional capacities long enough to behave professionally. They are not used to being direct and speaking face-to-face with people when they have an issue, so they do what they have to do to get what they want.

    What do you think of my screenplay idea, ducttape? Do you think the Western Washington Center For the Arts will be willing to put it on?

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