Swastikas spray painted on Summit County sheriff’s campaign posters
Members of the Summit County community woke up shocked Sunday to find an already-contentious sheriff race had reached a low point overnight with an act of vandalism.
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, a Democrat, is seeking re-election this November against Republican Derek Woodman. The race has been fierce and marred by rumors and misinformation flying in every direction about both candidates.
On Sunday morning, FitzSimons knew of at least five campaign yard signs and one large banner vandalized sometime overnight, spray painted with swastikas and SS bolts, two unmistakable symbols of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and white supremacist groups.
The vandalized campaign banner was fixed to a wood fence off Highway 9, only a quarter-mile in each direction from two Christian churches and down the road from Summit High School by Farmers Korner.
Feeling somewhat responsible for the signs because they were his, FitzSimons immediately started going to the homeowners’ doors to apologize for what had happened, he said.
“I think I have a personal responsibility to meet with them because I’m the one who put (the signs) in their yards,” the sheriff explained. “It’s just so unfortunate and disappointing that this campaign is no longer about what’s going on in our community, that this has become what’s going on in our community.”
Standing in front of the banner off Highway 9, FitzSimons said he has no idea who might have done such a thing, but, believing it could qualify as a hate crime, he has already reported it to the FBI. Meanwhile, FitzSimons’ wife fought back tears as she rode with her husband and saw news of the vandalism spreading on social media.
“My opponent’s campaign has been nothing but a vicious personal attack on me and my family, and I consider this one more vicious attack,” FitzSimons said, adding that someone cut down the same banner off Highway 9 down only days before it was spray painted. FitzSimons said he took the banner home, repaired it and returned it to the fence.
“I guess this is their answer to me putting it back up,” he said Sunday. “I don’t know, but for (the race) to come down to painting swastikas on banners and yard signs is horrible because you’re not only attacking me, you’re attacking my supporters but, on the bigger scope, you’re attacking this community.”
Woodman issued a statement on his campaign Facebook page Sunday condemning the acts of vandalism and asking anyone who might have information about who’s responsible to report it to the sheriff’s office.
“I think it’s inappropriate, it’s not what this community is about and our community is certainly much better than that,” Woodman said over the phone. “It’s just so inappropriate that it’s appalling.”
Why someone might target FitzSimons with anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, he said he has no idea. He was alerted to the vandalism when he got an email from a longtime homeowner early Sunday morning and was disturbed at what he found.
“Oh my god, this is horrible,” he said. “This is horrible that it has come to our community; it’s horrible.”
Mary Nichols, a Breckenridge resident for 30 years who lives in the Lakeview Meadows neighborhood, awoke to find the swastikas scrawled on FitzSimons’ signs scattered throughout her neighborhood.
“Shocking would be the word,” she said.
Nichols describes herself as an independent voter, but she added that, regardless of whom someone supports, “vandalism on either side is not appreciated.”
Anti-Semitism certainly isn’t anything new, but it’s never something you want to see in the community, said Jonathan Knopf, who believes this weekend’s vandalism only goes to show “what level of anger is out there.”
“It’s just not something we should tolerate in our community today,” he said. “It’s all based on hate.”
Knopf is past president of the Synagogue of the Summit, a member of its board and part of the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council. He doesn’t want to assign blame to anyone or any group, and he believes that whoever did this doesn’t speak for the greater Summit County community, statements that were echoed by both FitzSimons and Woodman.
“It only takes one angry person who is obviously filled with emotion and hate to do something like this,” Knopf said.
Additionally, the sheriff’s office found some “1A for Summit” political signs were also vandalized. If any other vandalized signs are discovered or if the public has any information regarding these crimes, people are encouraged to call dispatch’s non-emergency phone number and request a Summit County Sheriff’s Office Deputy at 970-668-8600.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $2,500 reward. In a follow-up post on Facebook, Woodman said he would be suspending a portion of his campaign advertising to offer an additional $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Because the vandalism was committed against FitzSimons’ signs, the sheriff said, the office of District Attorney Bruce Brown will lead the investigation.
Yet another incident involving a semi-tractor trailer losing it on the snow-slick roads in Glenwood Canyon has both the westbound and eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 closed east of Glenwood Springs as of 11:15 a.m. Monday.