In his campaign video (below), Puyallup City Council candidate John Hopkins says he has a lot to offer voters--his success as an electrical contractor, his education, his community service. But the offer that's getting the most reaction is a free oil change at Ben's Quality Lube & Tune.
To get it, you don't have to vote for Hopkins, or even actually support him. Just act like you do. Walk into Ben's with one of Hopkins' fliers and say aloud, "Vote for John Hopkins" and you're headed for the oil rack, no charge. It's perfectly legit, say state officials.
It would be illegal to offer a bribe, a reward, or anything of value in exchange for a vote, Katie Blinn, co-director of elections for the Office of the Secretary of State, tells the News Tribune. But inducing the public merely to advertise your campaign is something akin to hiring actors to support your candidacy, and that's kosher, she says.
Hopkins, a political newcomer who got the TNT's endorsement ("heads above the rest"), says he's passing out 5,000 freebie fliers, leaving most of them on Puyallup doorknobs. If everyone shows up at Ben's for an oil change, that could cost Hopkins $50,000, figuring a low-ball dealer cost of $10 per change.
Hopkins says he and garage man Ben Jones will split the costs, and the state Public Disclosure Commission says the total will have to be reported as in-kind contributions to the campaign. Notes the TNT:
Hopkins, 63, a semi-retired property manager, faces two others [Tom Smillie and Merv Swanson] in the Aug. 16 primary. He has collected $9,000 for his campaign, according to the PDC, but the money is out of his own pocket, he said. He said he has avoided taking contributions because he wants people to know his council votes won't be influenced by special interests.