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Abel, Angel backed by 'soft money' mailers

Mailings in the 26th District legislative race come from both sides. Both are critical, take information out of context, and misspell at least one word.  - Nicole Hegelson
Mailings in the 26th District legislative race come from both sides. Both are critical, take information out of context, and misspell at least one word.
— image credit: Nicole Hegelson

Some local voters this week received two political mailers, seemingly from 26th District Legislative candidates Kim Abel and Jan Angel, on the same day.

While presenting different viewpoints, the mailings had significant similarities. Both were two-sided, brightly colored and printed on card stock paper.

Both presented broad-stroke criticisms of a candidate without mentioning the candidate whom the author of the mailer presumably supports.

The mailings, from the Citizens Action Group (anti-Abel) and the Washington State Democratic Committee (anti-Angel) both make an effort to distance themselves from specific campaigns.

Still, many voters believe the candidate has control of the message. For instance, any anti-Angel mailing originates from Abel — who could stop the mailings if she so desired. And vice versa.

Both candidates, however, insist this isn’t necessarily true.

“A lot of times you don’t see the mailing until after the fact,” Abel said.

Angel agreed, and doesn’t feel she needs to correct a nuance or interpretation “as long as the information is accurate.”

Accuracy, however, is in the eye of the beholder.

Both candidates generally agreed with the information in the mailer that attacks their opponent, while claiming the criticism leveled against them is untrue or taken out of context.

Both mailings make dramatic accusations, then lay out the facts to support them. The connection is sometimes debatable.

Abel is lambasted for her “Embarrasing (sic) Record of Waste ... six million dollars wasted due to missed deadlines and incomplete projects.”

The footnoted source for this information was the July 26 Port Orchard Independent.

But that particular edition of the paper has no statement by either a source, columnist, or letter writer blaming Abel for any shortfalls, nor is a dollar amount mentioned in any context.

Meanwhile, the anti-Angel mailing accuses the incumbent South Kitsap commissioner of singlehandedly squandering $14 million in reserves and being directly responsible for the collapse of the Kitsap County Community Housing Authority.

This stretches the truth, since Angel was one of the earliest advocates of county spending cuts. And the KCCHA crash was found to occur because the staff did not provide accurate information to the board of directors (on which Abel preceded Angel as chair).

As if competing for equal time with the opposition mailer, the anti-Angel piece manages to misspell the word “Kitsap.”

Both local party chairmen are uncomfortable with the process. Democratic Chairman Carl Olson said he always wants to know where a message originates, to determine its veracity.

Republican Jack Hamilton said he steers his party’s candidates away from an attack strategy.

“People are tired of negative campaigning,” he said. “I tell candidates they are not going to win by attacking their opponent. Rather, they will win if they can bring their own qualifications forward, and tell the public why they are the best qualified candidate.”

Olson acknowledges that some mailings are sent outside of the candidate’s control, but their misstatements can be corrected.

“If something goes out that is incorrect, it can be clarified,” he said. “Silence implies consent.” 

Hamilton said blaming the incumbent is a default campaign process, admitting that it can go both ways in this particular race.

Both Abel and Angel were part of the establishment, serving in public office in stressful times. And both have been blamed for the respective problems in the city of Port Orchard and Kitsap County.

“The problems we’re facing today were created by government,” he said. “In order to win, you need to show how you are going to fix the problems caused by the incumbents.” 

Angel and Abel both say they were running positive, issue-oriented campaigns, but accused each other of slinging the first mud.

Return mud, then, was slung in self-defense.

Hamilton said local Republican candidates have also taken the high road and not gone after the opposition in any specific personal way, aside from the Kitsap County Auditor’s race.

This is different, he said, because candidate John Clark’s criticism of incumbent Auditor Walter E. Washington are job-related.

“Anything pertaining to a candidate’s record is fair game,” he said.

Neither the candidates nor the party chairmen think these mailings will make a real difference in the vote count. Olson, for example, acknowledges his Democratic bias and that a mailing won’t change his mind either way.

Hamilton thinks the mailings could have a slight influence, but only to fringe voters not willing to do any candidate research.

“People should vote for a candidate based on their understanding of the issues and their character,” he said.

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