Sign of the times

Political signs are popular targets in close election year
Thursday, September 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:50 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The intersection of Nifong Boulevard and Providence Road is now an eyesore for Boone County Republicans. Recently, a 4-by-8 Bush and Cheney sign next to the party’s local headquarters was spray-painted with orange paint in the shape of a banned sign.

Volunteer Susan DiPietre said she noticed the sign Tuesday morning.

“I’m only aware of the presidential candidate’s signs being removed and vandalized. I haven’t heard anything about other Republican candidate’s signs,” DiPietre said.

Lloyd Smith, senior advisor for the Republican campaign in Missouri, said this behavior is common in presidential election years.

“We don’t approve of it or condone it,” Smith said. “It’s a loss of property and shows a certain disdain for the political process.”

The incident is one in a series of political sign thefts and vandalism that target supporters on both sides.

Keith and Susan Eggener’s Kerry and Edwards sign went missing from their lawn on Sunday. So did their neighbor’s.

Keith Eggener said all the Kerry and Edwards signs on Maupin Drive, Greenwood Avenue and West Boulevard were stolen Sunday.

“It’s not funny,” Susan Eggener said. “It’s just undemocratic and so counter-productive to the process.”

Since June 1, the Columbia Police Department has filed eight theft reports involving political yard signs.

Many times sign thefts go unreported because of their availability and value, Sgt. Danny Grant said.

Phyliss Fugit, chairwoman of the Boone County Democratic Central Committee, said roughly 300 signs were removed in the last two weeks. Hundreds of residents came to the headquarters seeking replacements.

Information from the Republican Party also suggests a large number of unreported thefts. DiPietre said about 100 supporters came to get a replacement for their missing sign in the past month.

“It hurts you with supporters,” Smith said. “Supporters spend gas money and time to get the sign and put it their lawn. They spend time mowing their grass around the sign only to have it ripped up.”

Smith said sign theft increases when the presidential race is close. Democratic and Republican officials expect thefts to continue until the end of the election cycle.

“I hate to say it, but when it comes close to Halloween you see more incidents of vandalism in general,” Smith said.

Democrats hope the rate of thefts won’t increase.

“It’s just been in the last week that we’ve gotten several calls a day from people missing signs,” said Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti.

Smith said the vandalized sign next to the Republican Party headquarters will be replaced.

“When we get one, it will be put back up or moved to a safer place where there’s the same type of traffic,” Smith said.

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