Political Sign Wars Leave Black Mark on El Dorado County - Editorial
Each election season, signs are stolen and defaced on both sides of the political aisle, but one candidate says that this season's vandalism is particularly severe.
Over the weekend two Nutting campaign signs were vandalized with graffiti at the intersection in front of my home. It stood out because four different candidates have signs at this intersection but only one candidate was targeted. I contacted the campaign and asked about the vandalism.
Jennifer Nutting, the wife of former Supervisor Ray Nutting, is running for the District Supervisor seat, has had 5 of her campaign signs slashed and cut down with a knife or machete and another 35 signs defaced with a marker or paint. Volunteers have been actively replacing and repairing the signs for the last two weeks.
The first time Jennifer Nutting noticed a sign was targeted she was flattered that someone thought that her campaign was going so well they had to stoop to defacing her signs. She figured the vandal was just someone who didn't like the signs or wanted to wreak a little havoc. However, when 50 signs are missing, or were cut or defaced at multiple intersections, Jennifer Nutting suspected it was orchestrated foul play.
"It's nothing like we've seen before," Ray Nutting said. Mr Nutting is the veteran of many local election including four victorious elections campaigns of his own for Supervisor. Ray Nutting may have put up, and taken down, more political campaign signs in El Dorado County than any other person. Although he is clearly biased towards his wife's campaign, his claims seem to be validated simply by driving about and looking at the damaged signs from this last weekend.
And Ray Nutting adds that not only has his wife's signs been targeted, but hurtful phone messages have been left on their phone of which Nutting says he has never seen the likes of before. Ray Nutting thinks that the organized attack is clearly a felony and has notified law enforcement.
But Jennifer Nutting takes a more pragmatic approach. "We were doing well until two weeks ago, and now we can't keep a sign up," she said. Nutting noticed her signs were the only ones slashed or defaced in a cluster of Supervisor candidate signs. She said that she had been involved in local politics for 10 years and has seen vandalism before. But this election season, she said, people are not letting others speak freely.
She noted that she thought the petition advocates, the Shingle Springs Community Alliance, had been robbed by the BOS of their opportunity to let the voters decide. She went to to say that she did not care if individuals supported or opposed the citizen driven land use petitions, but that the voters has the right to decide and that should not be stopped by lawyers and legal scheming.
Pictures from a Nutting election in 2012 for the same Supervisor's seat showed that they had been defaced with almost identical markings of the letters "WTF" in a manner very similar to the recent marks on Jennifer Nutting's signs two years later. At the time the last signs were vandalized, Nutting was running against George Turnboo. Ray Nutting does not blame Turnboo for the damage saying that he did not think that George would be involved in such a thing.
In Cameron Park we see a number of signs for candidate Shiva Frentzen have also been defaced. In these signs, they are marked to say she is in league with developers. It is not known if these are copycat taggers inspired by the Nutting sign vandals, or if they are related.
So with all these elections, we are bound to see signs up encouraging a vote for this candidate or that one at just about any given time. And inevitably, some will be knocked down, broken, cut, defaced, and completely stolen each election.
The primary just wrapped up and now we have a Special Election on Sept 9th sandwiched in before the general election in November, so signs are prolific.
Do I like to see them? Not really. They litter the roadsides and serve as distractions to drivers. They clutter up an otherwise pretty El Dorado County countryside.
But they are an important part of the democratic process that allows our fellow citizens to express their personal support of a candidate, I get it.
What I don't get is why people would graffiti them, as the Nutting campaign has reported.
A juvenile prank is one thing. Kids with nothing better to do than knock over a bunch of signs is more of a pain than anything. But kids typically aren't selective if they're out on a vandalism binge – they'll knock down any sign they come across, be it an election sign, a home-builder sign, a camp, a gym, a restaurant, it doesn't matter.
But for an opponent, or his supporters, to target a candidate's campaign signs is just reprehensible and just as foolish. All professional campaigns tell their supporters of stories of campaigns lost when overzealous supporters are caught doing things like taking an opponent's signs. The danger of a backlash is so real that campaign managers are first to tell staffers and volunteers to leave opposition signs completely unmolested.
What seems to be happening in El Dorado County doesn't sound like random teenage vandalism. It sounds like someone, or some group of people, trying to sabotage the candidate. But why?
Shouldn't an election be based on a candidate's ability to represent his or her constituents? Based on thoughts and ideals? Based on ability to get things done, plans and agendas if elected?
I'm assuming, and hoping, that if the vandalism and thefts are caused by a candidate's supporters, the candidates know nothing about it. If they do, shame on them and there's no reason to vote for them.
A candidate who gives tacit approval for such acts has no business representing the people of his or her district.
So why damage or steal the political signs? It's not accomplishing anything. Let the candidates stand on their own merits. Goodness knows we don't need any urban gang-zone-like graffiti leaving a black mark in the minds of residents and visitors alike when they look at the ubiquitous political signs.