Political Parties Concerned About Missing Signs – Transylvania County, NC
Last updated 10/7/2020 at 5:18pm
Tensions stemming from the national political stage are seeping into small-town life, as local political party leaders are reporting stolen and defaced political signs, and potential acts of sign-stealing retaliation.
“Political signs get stolen every year we have an election,” said Eddie Gunter, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy. “It doesn’t matter who’s running.”
Both Gunter and Brevard Police Chief Phil Harris said few residents have officially reported political signs stolen, but they have heard anecdotes of it happening in the county. Both Gunter and Harris said, as far as they knew, there hasn’t been an increase in sign stealing compared to previous election years.
The chairs for the county’s Democratic Party and Republic Party, however, said they’ve heard multiple reports of political signs being stolen or defaced in people’s yards. Democrat Julia Kennerly and Republican Ruth Harris have been in contact with one another over the mysteriously missing signs.
“I mean, it’s childish,” Ruth Harris said. “It’s just ridiculously childish for people to think that if they steal signs, that’s going to somehow cause people (to change their vote). It actually has the opposite effect. People are so mad, they’re like, ‘I will drag myself across broken glass to vote for this person now that somebody is stealing signs.’”
Local Democrats Noel Thurner and Ray Byram said they’ve both put out signs for multiple candidates, but only the Trump/Pence signs are going missing, even when they are surrounded by other Democratic Party signs.
Harris said that while Trump/Pence signs are mostly being stolen, if the Trump/Pence sign is placed next to other Republican candidate signs, all of the signs will get taken.
Harris said many Republicans are so fed up with sign stealing they have placed game cameras in their yard, and that one person even had their game camera stolen with their sign.
She believes there is a retaliatory nature to some of the incidents.
“I think there’s probably some tit-for-tat going on because I know Julia Kennerly sent me a picture of a Sam Edney sign that had been spray painted, and I found out later that sign went up right next to a Madison Cawthorn sign that was completely removed,” she said. “I don’t know if that one was a revenge defacing or what, but I do know that people were remarking to me that, ‘Did you know they took the Madison sign and then they put a Sam Edney sign up right next to it?’”
Both parties seem convinced it’s agitators from the other side who are doing the stealing and defacing, but law enforcement said there are also other possibilities. Gunter said when Sheriff David Mahoney was running for office, many of his signs were going missing. Later, they found out the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) had removed several signs to mow in the grassy areas, where they were placed. The Transylvania County DOT maintenance crew, however, said they have not removed any political signs this year as of Friday, Oct. 2. Phil Harris said there could be explanations besides theft.
“Sometimes it’s weather related,” he said. “Sometimes it’s property and location related because somebody believes, ‘I own this property, and I don’t want that sign in my yard,’ so they take it. Whereas, the sign may have been in a right of way, where it was allowed.”
The DOT has issued the following restrictions for political road signs:
•Whoever places a sign is required to get the permission of any property owner of a residence, business or religious institution fronting the right of way where a sign would be placed;
•No sign is permitted in the right of way of a limited-access highway such as an interstate;
•No sign can be closer than 3 feet from the edge of the pavement of the road;
•No sign can obscure motorist visibility at an intersection;
•No sign can be higher than 42 inches above the edge of the pavement;
•No sign can be larger than 864 square inches; and
•No sign can obscure or replace another sign.