Mid-Missouri candidates report stolen, vandalized campaign signs
COLUMBIA - Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks reported at least seven candidates, from both parties and running for different positions, have had some of their campaign signs damaged or stolen.
The list includes Democract Finley Gibbs, running for Circuit Judge with the Circuit 13, Division 1 and District 47 Republican State Representative Chuck Basye, running for re-election.
Gibbs said somebody cut a hole in the middle of one of his signs, on Paris Road on Monday.
"I thought this was an isolated incident but, in fact, speaking to some of my friends on the campaign trail, including my opponent, I learned that people on both sides of the aisle have had significant sign damage this year," he said.
Basye had at least two of his signs vandalized. Someone sprayed over the 'H' out on 'Chuck.'
"I think it's more a reflection on the people that did it that it is on me or my family," he said.
Basye said this is not the first campaign where candidate signs get vandalized.
"It happens all the time, not just to me," he said. "I don't think it's just a Republican issue or Democrat issue, it's just the nature of politics today."
However, Burks said it is not easy for the police to find the people responsible for those damages.
"The reality is that unless this is cut on camera a surveillance camera or a security camera, or if a candidate has a tracking device on their sign, it's a little more difficult to deal with theft or vandalism," he said.
Both Basye and Gibbs said the damages to their signs add up to the challenges of the race.
"It's hard to raise money for a State House race, it's very expensive in the Columbia-medium market," Basye said. "This just adds to the expense. The signs are about 60 dollars a piece or so."
"I think that most of us who are in this particular election are aware that we're going to lose some signs," Gibbs said. "It's not so much a financial issue, although those signs are expensive, as it is a timing issue. It's hard to come up with new signs to replace old ones."
Both candidates said the vandalism with their signs could be a reflection of the political atmosphere leading to the midterms.
"People who have different views should be able to respect each other and politely disagree but that's not always the case," Basye said.
Gibbs said "people seem to have more, I won't use the word anger, but people seem to be more annoyed about the process and about a number of the issues that are present this year."
Whoever steals or vandalizes a political sign can face up to one year in prison and/or a fine of $2,500.
"In this country we have principles of free speech, under the First Amendment, where people can share their opinions," Burks said. "I think that this clause in state statue is designed to protect that political speech."
Both Basye and Gibbs said they do not blame their opponents for the damage to their signs.
"Whatever is happening is somebody who is likely not related to the judicial campaign," Gibbs said. "It's likely somebody who perhaps is feeling a little bit too fervent about their political thoughts."
Basye even keeps an eye on other signs. For instance, Basye repaired one from Rep. Vicky Hartzler that was damaged.
He had a message for those creating the damage.
"If they have a disagreement with me over a view, I mean that's fine, very understandable," Basye said. "But this is just inappropriate to damage somebody's property, this is a crime."