Political signs pilfered in El Jebel
October 14, 2010
EL JEBEL – The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the apparent theft or destruction of an estimated 60 political campaign signs in El Jebel.
Posted on the lawn near the Eagle County Community Center, just south of the El Jebel intersection on Highway 82, the signs promoted Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated candidates for local, state and federal offices. They were stolen or demolished Sunday and Tuesday nights, party officials said Wednesday.
Doug Tucker, vice chairman of the Eagle County Democrats, estimated on Sunday night alone, 50 signs for Republican candidates and eight signs for Democrats were stolen.
Randy Milhoan, chairman of the Eagle County Republicans, said he initially thought Sunday night’s incident was an “isolated event.” But Wednesday morning, he said, Milhoan received a call from Harvie Branscomb, chairman of the Eagle County Democrats, saying an 8-by-4-foot sign advertising the campaign for incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, had been stolen sometime Tuesday night.
Milhoan said the thefts, no matter the motivation behind them, are a violation of the First Amendment.
“These signs are a matter of free speech, and this is one of the worst violations in my opinion,” Milhoan said. “… We’ll prosecute if we find out whoever did it, and I don’t care what party they’re in.”
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He planned Wednesday to send a mass e-mail message to the Republican Party announcing the GOP’s intention to prosecute.
Deputies have been investigating since a report was filed with the sheriff’s office Wednesday morning, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly said. She said the wooden ground posts for the Polis sign were still in the ground when deputies arrived, but the sheriff’s office didn’t know have any further information about the thefts.
“At this point, we have canvassed the area but haven’t found anything,” she said.
The incident does not appear to be politically motivated. The strip of lawn had numerous signs, which Tucker said could have been a turnoff to whoever stole them.
“I personally think it was someone who didn’t like the signs,” Tucker said.
The display was highly visible from Valley Road, a Highway 82 frontage thoroughfare, and was somewhat visible from the highway itself.
Branscomb said the yard-style signs cost $2 or $3, but that the bigger ones, like the Polis advertisement, can cost more than $100.
Branscomb said Democrats didn’t have a solid inventory of everything that was taken.
Milhoan said the thefts came as a surprise, as he didn’t expect any sign stealing to happen this far along in the campaign. He said the loss is intensified because the candidates are running out of money to replace campaign materials this close to the Nov. 2 election.