Summit County candidates complain about stolen campaign signs
KEYSTONE — Local candidates in the upcoming November election are concerned about a number of campaign signs being stolen over recent weeks and are calling on community members to cut the dirty politicking and focus instead on supporting their preferred candidates.
Allen Bacher, the Republican candidate for the District 1 county commissioner seat, said a banner and several of his campaign signs have been stolen — dating back to about mid-September — and that he feels his party is being targeted by bad actors in the county.
“It appears to be only people with an ‘R’ behind their name,” Bacher said. “It’s not something that I would ever think of accusing the Democratic Party in the county or any of the candidates for. … But it’s bordering on reprehensible. It’s ill-intentioned people doing it, thinking that they’re eliminating a voice. It’s childish behavior more than anything else.”
Bacher said he’d noticed signs going missing sporadically from several different areas of the county, all of which were on private land.
It is possible at least some of the missing signs are a result of them accidentally being placed in a public right of way and removed. Vanessa Agee, Frisco’s marketing and communications director, said the town responded to a complaint of election signs on public property along Colorado Highway 9 late last month and removed them.
Elise Thatcher, a regional communications manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said CDOT crews also will remove signs from right of ways and keep them at one of their maintenance barns for 30 days or until they’re claimed.
But some say the scope of the issue points to something more malicious.
“We’ve put yard signs out, and we come back the next day, and they’re gone,” said Kim McGahey, the Republican candidate for Colorado House District 61. “It’s happened in all the towns in the county. We’ve seen it on personal property. We don’t put up signs unless we know it’s not municipal property, and we know we have the property owner’s permission to do that. …
“Personally, mine have been fine, but the Trump signs, in particular, have been disappearing, and I think it’s orchestrated by the opposition, or people of the opposition who think it’s OK to mess around with people’s personal property. … It appears to be that, but I don’t have any conclusive proof to confirm it. There’s no way to tell whether it’s an orchestrated, intentional effort or whether it’s people on the other side who think it’s OK.”
McGahey said they’re planning on putting cameras out at locations around the county in hope of catching any future perpetrators in the act and handing the information over to local law enforcement.
Area Democrats called the insinuation that there may be an organized effort to remove Republican signs baseless and insulting.
“That is absolutely not the case,” said Patricia McLaughlin, chair of the Summit County Democratic Party. “We are focused on putting out signs, but we would never organize a campaign to take away signs. That is so against what the Democratic Party stands for that I actually am offended anyone would suggest that.”
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, a Democrat running for reelection opposite Bacher, said she felt the stolen signs aren’t just a Republican issue, noting that a number of blue signs were recently removed from a private residence in Frisco. Lawrence also voiced that missing Republican signs don’t necessarily implicate left-leaning community members as the most likely culprits.
Lawrence said there was still some bad blood between herself and residents on Peak 7, where some signs were stolen, and where she said county commissioners made enemies last year after putting failed Measure 1C on the ballot, which would have tasked residents with paying for new road paving throughout the area.
“I sometimes question, were those signs taken by someone of the opposing party or were they taken by members of their own party to reflect poorly on the opposite party?” Lawrence said. “I don’t really want to get into conspiracy theories, but I have that question because where this first started on Peak 7, there are some residents that have really targeted me in a way that I’m worried about my safety and my family’s safety. … It’s just hard not to link all of that.
“But I also think there are just people who don’t like politics in this country and who are taking sides. It happens in every election. This is not new.”
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons — who is no stranger to this behavior after his signs were vandalized with Nazi imagery during his 2018 reelection campaign — said his office is aware of the issue but currently doesn’t have any leads. He said that if caught, offenders could potentially be cited with trespassing, theft or other charges depending on the circumstances.
But everyone on both sides of the aisle said the issue was frustrating and that the best solution would be to allow the campaign process to play out uninterrupted by overzealous community members.
“I guess you could say that it is something (we deal with every election season), unfortunately,” FitzSimons said. “But should we catch someone, it won’t be tolerated regardless of party or who owns the sign. It’s just the sentiment of it. This is a free society, and politics are a part of that society. Everyone should respect the fact that every candidate has a right to post their signs legally.”
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