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Special Report, Port Orchard Elections: The Mayor

Click here for a City Hall audio election guide

As the ballots show up in mailboxes this week, little has changed on the race for mayor of Port Orchard. However the two candidates, Lary Coppola and Tom Saunders, have changed their stance on one thing — building heights.

The now-codified Downtown Overlay District allows buildings up 55 feet tall on the south side of Bay Street. Both candidates previously thought 55-foot buildings might work for downtown, but after visiting with residents, they’ve changed their minds.

“In the beginning I wasn’t real sure. I thought maybe 55 feet was not that bad of a height,” Saunders said. “But the more I talked to people, I found out that’s not what they wanted ... 55 feet really is too high for downtown Port Orchard. I don’t want us to become downtown Bremerton.”

Coppola gave a rare piece of public comment to the Port Orchard residents opposing the then-proposed height. Many candidates have visited the meetings, but few have spoken.

Coppola cited the residents he’s met while door-belling when opposing the proposal.

“I have not met a single person in favor of 55-foot buildings,” Coppola said to the City Council in August.

Coppola is the publisher for Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal. Saunders is an independent appraiser who previously worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Saunders has lightened his campaign over the last two weeks as he recovered from some pain in his legs. He said he’s been unable to go door to door, and is continuing his campaign through mailings and phone calls.

Coppola took a strong lead in the race for the mayor’s office in August when he took in 58 percent of the vote, followed by Saunders at 26 percent, and Kathleen Dolan-Bowes at 13 percent.

The two seem to support a lot of the same ideas in their campaign — economic revitalization, annexation and improving the public process — but both will argue that they are the right person for the job.

Coppola cites his business experience and time working with the Kitsap County Planning Commission, and Saunders offers his years at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he worked as a housing director.

Saunders said he hopes to pull in a lot of Dolan-Bowes’ supporters, and said he feels when people meet him, they’ll find him friendly and approachable.

Coppola said he continues to run the race as if he’s “20 points behind.”

Ballots are due Nov. 6.

To learn more about each candidate, visit their Web sites at www.tomsaundersmayor.com and www.electlary.com. Or to learn more about the candidates, view an election guide with audio interviews at www.portorchardindependent.com.

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