Playing dirty politics, or just merry pranksters

Campaign signs disappearing from yards, but party chiefs blame mischievous teens

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Oct. 17 2008 - Opposing political party chairmen are usually busy sniping at each other's campaigns, but the Democratic and Republican party chiefs in Hopkins County have found common ground on one issue: They're voting against sign thieves.

Chris Brown, chairman of the Hopkins County Republican Party, and Bill Brannon, his counterpart on the Democrati Party side, both said there have been a number of campaign signs taken from yards of supporters in recent weeks.

It's not unusual for signs to disappear from rights-of-way on public roads -- partisan political materials aren't supposed to be used on public property to promote one candidate over another, anyway -- and there have been plenty of accusations over the years of an incumbent or challenger charging their opponent of absconding with signs to wreck a campaign.

But this time, both sides are getting equal time -- the thieves are as likely to take signs from a McCain man as they are one from a Barack backer.

Both Brannon and Brown, however, don't think there's any paranoid political pranks going on.

"More than likely it's just kids," said Brown. "There may be a little bit of 'Democrats versus Republicans' stuff going on out there, but I think it's mainly just mischievous stuff."

Brown has even hear from a friend at church whose signs in support of Barack Obama kept disappearing.

"Three different times it was pulled and replace with a McCain sign," Brown said.

Brannon also believes adolescent antics are at play.

"I think it's just kids," Brannon said. "We had a lot of signs come up missing last weekend."

But he also noted that emotions can run high when someone who feels passionately about a candidate believes their right to free speech is being silenced.

"We're a community, and people want to express their views," he said.

The party chiefs went so far as to issue a joint letter beseeching people to stop stealing political signs.

"Those signs cost candidates money and time to find supporters," the memo states. "But most of all, men and women fought and died to give us the right to freedom of speech."

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