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Mayor hopefuls face off in first debate

Lary Copolla, Kathleen Dolan-Bowes and Tom Saunders debate at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce

Port Orchard’s three mayoral candidates appeared on Thursday in their first formal debate, this one hosted by Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, and topping the list of hot topics was the economic development of Bay Street.

Each candidate boasted of being the one who could finally bring revitalization to Bay Street, but only differed in method.

Kathleen Dolan-Bowes criticized investor Mansour Samadpour of Bothell, who owns six buildings on Bay Street, some of which are vacant.

“He’s using it probably as a tax write-off,” Dolan-Bowes said. “This is a man who doesn’t put things on the table.”

Dolan-Bowes said Port Orchard residents should be asking, “How did this happen to our town?”

Tom Saunders, meanwhile, wants to continue what he calls “pride in ownership” along Bay Street, citing the recent cleanups as major improvements.

Lary Copolla said he met with Samadpour and believes it’s possible he’s waiting for the buildings to vacate and using it as a tax write-off, but he believes Samadpour will follow the leadership of the city in revitalization once a plan is in place.

Copolla’s campaign focuses on crime and safety, but he said when going door-to-door through Port Orchard, residents are most concerned with economic development.

In particular, Copolla is concerned about methamphetamine use — his own grandson currently lives with Copolla after the child’s parents lost custody because of meth use.

During the debate, the candidates each took turns answering pre-arranged questions, focusing on vacant buildings downtown, overall economic development, parking and annexation between Port Orchard and Bremerton.

The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce will not offer any endorsements on the mayoral race, President Brad Potter said, but added that the group’s interest for Port Orchard’s future is economic development.

“I think people in this town are tired of nothing happening downtown,” Potter said.

Unlike previous debates hosted by the Chamber, the mayoral candidates screened all of the questions the night before. Potter said providing the questions would keep the discussion better controlled and move quicker.

Chamber Vice President Chris Mutchler disagreed.

“I didn’t like the questions being forwarded to the candidates ahead of time,” he said, explaining that off-the-cuff questions will show how each candidate is prepared for the decision.

The debate drew not only business professionals, but also a number of candidates for other open seats in the November election, including city council hopefuls Fred Olin and Jerry Childs.

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