Published: Oct 30, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 30, 2012 05:54 PM
Candidates vying for the five spots on the Durham County Board of Commissioners face tough battles.
Each works tirelessly to convince local political action committees they are the best for the job. Each has to raise money to advertise their bid for office, and each has to stray from all appearance of evil. In Durham, that means not rubbing elbows with a person with dirty laundry. The impression of evil is often viewed as proof of guilt.
Durham, like all cities, has its share of mudslinging. Listen close and you will overhear a person talk about your mother. Things can get rude in local politics. Rumors are spread to destroy credibility. Look close and you will find people looking under rocks to find secrets to end a person’s bid for office.
Yes, Durham is a tolerant city, but politics is messy in a place known for being bullheaded. That’s why I’m not shocked at a common campaign strategy in Durham. It’s illegal. It’s mean. It’s disgusting and needs to be stopped.
Candidates for local office are forced to contend with people stealing their campaign signs.
“There are a few areas in the city where my signs get stolen as soon as I put them out,” incumbent Commissioner Brenda Howerton says. “Signs are expensive. I’ve spent $1,000 on signs alone.”
Howerton is not alone in having to deal with stolen campaign signs. “It disturbs me when I see my signs taken in an area with other candidates and their signs aren’t taken,” say Omar Beasley, who is running as an independent. “It makes you wonder about who is behind it all.”
“My signs are removed all the time,” says Wendy Jacobs, another candidate. “It is really hard to know if it is people who don’t want me to win, people who are mowing and remove them or people who just don’t like campaign signs blighting the landscape. It is probably a combination of all three.”
Yes, it makes you wonder.
Those campaign signs are all over the city. It’s not unusual to see more than one in the same location competing for the attention of those driving home.
They all look pretty much the same until you notice the small details distinguishing them. Some have pictures. (Many would be better without pictures.) Most use red, white and blue. Some take risk with color schemes that leave you wondering why they even bothered.
After a few weeks of viewing them, they take on the personality of the people they represent.
Some have bold personalities and like the way they look. Others are laid back and are content with simply stating their name. Many reflect a desire to step outside the box. How else can you explain a person with a green sign?
I’ve wondered about why they show up at certain locations. I’m sure it’s because they all want to be found in an area where they can be seen. The people who select locations seem to be unconcerned about the other signs waving for attention. They’re certain their signs will be noticed more than the half-dozen others bunched together on the side of the road.
It’s a political turf war. Can you hear the signs screaming, “Hey dude, this is my corner!” It would be nice if the signs would say what was felt when someone placed them next to the competition. “I’ve got this corner. Find your own place.”
Maybe that’s why they get stolen.
Those signs are like the politicians they represent. Each is fighting to be noticed, and in the world of local politics they fight for attention. When someone attempts to steal a candidate’s position, you knock them down, get in front of them or find a way to remove them from the competition.
“I can’t even tell you how often and where because it is so frequent,” Jacobs says. “The latest I noticed yesterday is a candidate whose signs have recently been placed directly in front of mine in many places.”
There’s no way of knowing who is stealing the signs. Maybe it’s part of the game to win public office. Those signs speak beyond the colors and print promoting the people they represent. They are fighting to determine who owns the block.
Come to think about it, politics has a lot in common with gang warfare. Just like those Crips and Bloods, each is fighting for a place on the corner.
Sometimes I hear the voice of my first-grade teacher, “Children, children stop fighting! And don’t steal his toys!”
What can you say? It’s hard to grow up when you’re fighting to win.