As the Nov. 8 midterm election nears, theft and vandalism of signs promoting certain candidates or positions on ballot questions are plaguing both political camps, according to campaign representatives.
But Republican signage appears to be hit the hardest in the Pikes Peak region, where the numbers of registered Republican voters outweigh Democrats.
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In Teller County, half of the six 4-foot-by-8-foot road signs endorsing Erik Aadland, a Republican running for Colorado’s 7th Congressional House District, have been stolen or damaged, said Tim LeBlanc, a campaign volunteer for Aadland from Florissant.
“These vandals want free speech but they won’t let us have ours,” he said. “That’s not how we act in America.”
The signs were placed legally, LeBlanc said, with permission from property owners along highways running through Woodland Park and Divide.
In one instance, heavy-duty plastic ties affixing the wooden frame to a sign erected near the Republican Party’s headquarters were cut, which led to the frame breaking, LeBlanc said.
“Then I used wire,” he said.
Another sign was cut off the wall of a building.
He points the finger at people who back the Democratic candidate, Brittany Pettersen, in the tense battle for the redrawn congressional seat.
“We don’t mess with their signs,” he said of Aadland’s opponent.
Small yard signs favoring Aadland also have been removed or ripped, LeBlanc said.
Mark Hatton, campaign manager for Pettersen, said they, too, have had signs vandalized, in Teller and Park counties. One was "ripped to shreds," he said.
"Our campaign condemns anyone defacing signs from any party," he said. "We denounce any vandalism of campaign signs."
Large road signs cost about $75 apiece, said Kel Koop, campaign engineer for Aadland in Jefferson County.
About 40 signs have been stolen or damaged off highways near Evergreen, Golden and Arvada, he said.
In one case, an Aadland sign was taken out of the holding posts and replaced with a Democratic sign, Koop said.
However, Koop said “We have no evidence, in many cases nothing left behind and no witnesses” to the vandalism.
“We’ve got to have civility in the way we run these elections, not ‘How can we destroy the other side,’ which seems like that’s the approach.”
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Authorities received a report on sign destruction in Woodland Park, said Police Chief Chris Deisler.
If a suspect is identified and the victim is willing to prosecute, the offense likely would be criminal mischief, he said, with the criminal degree depending on the amount of damage.
No campaign signs posted in Teller County for Democratic candidates and issues have been vandalized, said Laurie Glauth, the county’s Democratic Party chair.
“Just Mother Nature blowing them down,” she said.
Teller County has more than three times the number of Republican registered voters than Democrat.
Glauth said the action “should not be tolerated” in any instance.
“Anybody damaging signs is not right — it doesn’t matter what side of the coin they’re on,” Glauth said.
In neighboring El Paso County, the Democratic Party has received reports of yard signs being stolen but none have been defaced, said a lead office volunteer who would not give her name.
Tracking devices placed on signs led to a Dumpster where some of the missing signs were retrieved, she said.
“It’s not unusual,” she said of the situation. “We had at least 10 people come back and pick up more.”
Candidates purchase the signs and provide them for distribution through the party’s headquarters, she said.
In the Tri-Lakes area in northern El Paso County, signs opposing a mill levy override initiative from Lewis-Palmer School District 38 in Monument also have been struck by vandals.
“They’re writing obscenities, they’re spray-painting our banners and cutting them down,” said resident Derek Araje, who’s on a district financial committee and is campaigning against the $5.6 million annual tax increase to raise salaries for teachers and non-administrative staff.
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“This is a pattern, and it happens every election here in Monument,” he said. “Only the anti-tax banners and signs are ever destroyed. When they put up pro-MLO signs, they laid anti-MLO signs on the ground.”
Nearly half — 70 of 150 yard signs placed around the community — also have been stolen, Araje said, calling the action “dirty politics.”
“They’re trying to influence the fair election process. They’re trying to silence our voices,” he said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version to reflect that the Teller County Democratic Party has had at least one sign stolen and the group that supports the mill levy override proposal in Monument also is experiencing sign crime. Also, a response from the campaign of Democratic candidate Brittany Pettersen to alleged sign tampering by supporters was added.
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