O.K., kids: it's fine to show support for your favorite candidate. But there are limits:
Wait a minute: what's wrong, you may ask, with putting a couple dozen Russ Olson signs in your yard? Nothing at all... assuming it's actually your own yard.
Unfortunately, the above partisan display was actually an act of overnight vandalism and intimidation against a supporter of Scott Parsley, Russ Olson's opponent in the District 8 Senate race.
The yard you see in the above picture belongs to Cheryl George of Egan, Olson's hometown. She says she had signs for Democrats in her yard since a couple weeks ago, when House candidate Gerry Lange made a campaign swing through Egan. When she woke up last Monday morning, September 29, she found her Parsley and Lange signs torn apart and thrown off her property. Replacing them: some lovely gifts from some over-zealous Olson campaigners.
Now, did you notice the realty signs? Cheryl's house is not for sale. The "We love Russ" thugs liberated a Chuck Sutton auction sign and stuck it right Cheryl's front steps. Not satisfied with trespassing and vandalism, Olson's supporters felt the need to send the message that, "If you don't support our candidate, you don't deserve to live in this town."
Cheryl says the sheriff did drop by, as did Russ's dad Jerome, who was on the scene right away Monday morning demanding rather vociferously that he get every one of those expensive campaign signs back.
If I were an Olson backer, I'd be torqued, too, about the expense of such intimidation tactics to the campaign. Kids, you can back your candidate all you want, but breaking the law to do so only makes your guy look bad. And sending the message that folks with opposing views are not welcome in town... well, that's the antithesis of being neighborly.
Now Dems aren't immune to similar chicanery. South Dakota's Hillary Clinton campaign chief Geoff Wetrosky engaged in a little sign swiping when he was an operative in a New Hampshire mayoral campaign, and I hear this spring the Moody County Obama office in Flandreau received an uninvited makeover from some Clinton partisans.
Even my flawed soul can feel the sign-yanking urge. I don't like looking at Russ's half-grin every morning on the billboard out front of the Thrivent office and Kringen Plaza on Highway 34. I don't like my grocery dollars going to support Dan Roemer's "Vote Yes on 11" campaign sign on the Sunshine grocery property here in Madison. But it's free expression on private property. I won't go sneaking around under cover of darkness violating either right. If I disagree with Dale or Dan, I'll tell them openly (I think I just did!), and leave it at that. And if I want their signs to disappear, well, I'll just wait (and hope!) for the mighty wind of the official vote to sweep their opinions into the dustbin of minority.
Maybe the delinquents who vandalized Cheryl George's property thought they were doing the Olson campaign a favor. I think Russ himself would agree that nothing could be farther from the truth. Using criminal tactics to stifle free expression only makes you, your candidate, and your community look bad.
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