‘Sign wars’ part of political landscape
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org September 25, 2012 9:30PM
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:08AM
ELGIN — Just as the yard signs come out each election season, so do the complaints from candidates about theft, vandalism and other issues involving signs.
During primary season, the manager of the Tim Elenz campaign for the Democratic nomination for 22nd District state senator even filed a police report in March, saying someone had stolen about 180 “Elenz for Senate” yard signs from lawns all over the Elgin area.
“This year, many signs have disappeared. This is disappointing,” said Republican judicial candidate John Walters of Elgin.
“My opponent has blocked some signs,” claimed Walters’ opponent, Democrat John Dalton of Elgin, “but the property owners quickly remedied those problems. Some signs have been knocked down, and several stolen, including a 4-footer. Some folks consider this politics as usual. I disagree. Interfering with someone else’s political speech isn’t just rude or gamesmanship. It betrays a fundamental lack of civility and respect for the democratic process and real American values, like freedom of speech and association.”
Republican 22nd Senate District candidate Cary Collins of Hoffman Estates said he’s lost three smaller signs in Elgin, and he joked, “Maybe they liked them. They are nice signs.”
He added that if they are being deliberately removed without permission, it shows an insecurity on someone’s part. “But I just laugh it off.”
Collins’ opponent, incumbent Mike Noland, D-Elgin, said, “With rare exception, all of my opponents have been very courteous in this regard.”
He claimed he has had so many requests for signs that “there are more and more complaints that voters who have agreed to host our signs are not receiving them. Sometimes we lose track of households that have requested signs and, so we fail to place them before the election. Also, we have noticed that some signs find new homes unexpectedly. We do our best to replace them at the request of homeowners.”
The signs wars between Walters and Dalton also involved a recent incident at Paul’s Family Restaurant on McLean Boulevard in Elgin, where signs from both candidates had been planted outside the busy establishment.
Dalton claimed the signs were put up without permission, blocked his, and posted a picture of the alleged affront on Facebook.
Walters’ wife Debbie said that permission had been granted by a Paul’s employee, that Paul’s frequently puts up signs from candidates from both parties, and that her and her husband, like Dalton and his family, frequent the restaurant.
Northern Illinois University political science professor Matt Streb noted that such drama is why a lot of business owners choose not to put up any signs. That, and they want to avoid any possible repercussions should the opposing side win.
Still, the candidates interviewed all agreed that going door to door and asking people to put up signs has been a generally pleasant experience.
“Knowing that I am a Democrat, Republicans hosting my yard signs love to tease me about having my signs next to Republican candidates. It does look strange, but I’m glad to have their support,” Noland said.
“I have met a lot of incredibly nice people,” Walters said. “I’ve even reconnected with some friends and old classmates that I haven’t seen in years.”