Mania: A Tumultuous Political History

Benton County Commissioner candidate Max Mania, formerly Max Smith, has made a serious run at the office, garnering support from some prominent community members. Impressed by his performance at the the October 2 candidate’s debate, we decided to take a closer look into Mania’s past political career as a City Councilor in Port Angeles, Washington. We found quite a story.

Incident With Jack Slowriver

In 2012, Jack Slowriver was the vice chair of the Clallum County Washington Democratic Party. Slowriver is gender non-binary, and will be referred to here with the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “their.” On July 2, 2012, Mania phoned Slowriver to ask why they weren’t supporting Mania’s wife, Dale Holiday, formerly Dale Grenier, in her bid for County Commissioner. In a written statement describing the incident, Slowriver claimed that Mania listed a number of his actions as Councilor, including supporting a gender non-discrimination language policy and supporting Planned Parenthood. Slowriver did not agree to support Holiday, and says the conversation then took a negative tone.

“I was greatly disturbed by the tone and content of this conversation and ended it after repeatedly asking why Councilman Mania was making this call,” wrote Slowriver.

Two days later, at the Port Angeles Fourth of July parade, Slowriver encountered Mania in person.

“I had not uttered a single syllable when both Ms. Holiday and Councilman Mania yelled ‘fuck you’ to me amidst a small group of supporters,” wrote Slowriver.

Slowriver said they asked Mania to repeat himself, to which point he walked up to within 2 feet of Slowriver and screamed “fuck you, backstabber.”

“I didn’t feel as though he would strike me, but he was within striking distance,” explained Slowriver. When asked why they weren’t afraid for their safety, Slowriver said, “I don’t like being yelled at, but I’m not easily intimidated… I choose to not be afraid of angry white men.”

Mania alleges that the incident between him and Slowriver stemmed from a “poisonous email” he claims Slowriver circulated about Holiday. He also claims that he did not lose his temper during the dispute, though admitted to cursing at Slowriver.

Mania’s actions prompted Jack Slowriver to file an official complaint with Port Angeles local government on July 20 of that year. The incident, as well as Mania’s reportedly disruptive behavior within the city government, led the city to adopt an official code of ethical conduct. On Mania’s Benton County campaign website, he lists “getting the City Council to adopt an ethics policy” as a previous accomplishment of his.

Dale Holiday finished third in the primary election that spurred the incident. She and Mania then accused local Democratic Party officials of “fixing” the election.

Reputation With Former Officials

Mania claims that he is disliked by some Port Angeles officials and residents because of his opposition to a paper mill. He blames something that he calls “the good old boy network” for conspiring against him and Holiday to stifle their political ambitions and assassinate their characters. “When you stand up against the last mill in town, in a mill town, and say ‘you can’t pollute the air, you can’t harm the health of our citizens,’ you become a lightening rod, and that’s what I did,” said Mania. Mania also cited racism against his wife as a reason for his political and personal strife.

The Advocate spoke with local political figures that worked with or encountered Mania during his tenure as City Councilor in Port Angeles. Some chose to remain anonymous in print due to professed fear of harassment or retaliation from Mania, and some were even suspicious of us, fearing that we were operatives working on behalf of Mania.

“If he doesn’t get his way, you’re his enemy and he retaliates; he holds grudges,” said one former official. “[Mania and Holiday] either loved you or they hated you, and they hated a lot of people.”

The former official painted a picture of a man that uses his theatrical background to garner support when given a public platform, but also relishes being disruptive, and is intolerant of all opposition, turning on anyone the moment that he feels slighted.

According to another former government official that served with Mania: “After making a decent first impression as well-spoken grassroots progressives, Max and Dale in Washington quickly began alienating people by claiming that any criticism of them, or lack of support for their ambitions, meant someone was a corrupt person receiving kickbacks from a vast conspiracy of ‘good old boys’ bent on their destruction.” They continued, “The only reason I’m refraining from being quoted on the record is because I have sincere reason to believe he and his wife engaged in cyber-stalking, defamation, and phone-stalking of their perceived enemies for years after their departure from Washington State.”

To the allegations of cyber-stalking, Mania claims that he does not like to use computers, and detests social media. A former official interviewed by The Advocate corroborated that Mania, to the best of this official’s knowledge, was known for not being computer-savvy while in Port Angeles; one of Mania’s alleged ethics violations was improper use of his official email account.

Jim McEntire was serving as a Clalum County Commissioner for a portion of Mania’s tenure as City Councilor in Port Angeles, and is currently a Republican candidate or State Rep in Washington’s 24th Legislative District.

Regarding Mania and Holiday’s accusations against the local Democratic Party, McEntire said “I’m of the opposite political persuasion, and I’ve always known the Democratic Party locally here in Clallum County to be tough opponents, they have different views than I do of course, but I’ve always known them to be honorable people, and people of integrity and sincerity.”

McEntire expressed his overall view of Mania very simply: “I don’t know if I know of anybody who’s less suited to serve in local elected office than Max Mania. He was not a constructive presence, not a problem solver by any stretch.”

Mania told The Advocate that he and his wife have been on the receiving end of targeted harassment rather than being perpetrators of it. He said that the harassment began in Port Angeles, and he and Holiday continue to receive it here, five years later. Mania has provided us with examples of anonymous trolls posting comments threatening character assassination on his campaign blog, and it is true that individuals have been sending negative information regarding Mania to local political groups and politicians.

We were able to find an area political representative to speak kindly of Mania. Ted Miller is a third term City Councilor in Sequim, just east of Port Angeles. Mania said that Miller was formerly his lawyer.

“His heart and mind are in the right place, in my opinion,” said Miller. “He loses his temper. He really lost it when they started attacking his wife, pretty loyal husband, I guess.”

Miller also acknowledged the existence of the aforementioned “good old boy network.” He described a group of area business owners that actively try to stifle economic development for fear of increased competition, and were against Mania’s progressive goals as a City Councilor. “They’re not malicious,” he explained of the business owners, “just self interested.”

Regarding the poor treatment that Mania reported to have received in Port Angeles, Miller said, “There’s an old saying: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you. He has a little bit of paranoia, that way. I don’t think it was as bad as he’s making it out to be, but it was bad enough for him to feel sufficiently unwelcome.”

Leaving Port Angeles

In August 2013, Mania resigned from the City Council and left town, eventually landing in Corvallis. In his letter of resignation, he wrote “I ran for City Council with the best of intentions — and we all know the saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions”

He continued, “so many people . . . have spent so much time and energy trying to make it impossible for us to live here that it is impossible for me to see any future in Port Angeles, or for Port Angeles, other than continued decay and disaster.”

“Sure, I could stay and fight some more, but what’s the point? If the majority of ‘leaders’ there want to burn money while watching the ship go down, I’m not going to waste any more of my time shouting about getting into the lifeboats.”

While many in Port Angeles were happy to see him go, we’ve also spoken with some that still believe he indeed did serve with the best of intentions, helping to usher Port Angeles into a more progressive future.

Jay Sharpe