La Center councilor's campaign signs taken, then returned

They show up day after he asks for their return on Facebook

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
photoAl Luiz

Consider it La Center's case of the miraculously reappearing campaign signs.

When La Center City Councilor Al Luiz discovered 12 of his campaign signs had been plucked from their strategic locations on private property near areas of high traffic, he thought the worst: He'd lost a significant amount of exposure along with more than $300.

What happened next might offer a clue as to the culprits' motives. Luiz took to Facebook to ask for the signs back — no questions asked because whoever took them could simply place them by the side of the road somewhere.

The next day, following a showing of support online, the stolen signs reappeared.

"Rather interestingly, they were thrown back exactly where they were taken," Luiz said. "All it tells me is whoever did it knew what they were doing."

Tampering with political signs is a rite of passage for campaigns. Dozens of the placards are stolen or defaced each election cycle. Few of the stolen signs are ever returned.

During last year's general election, a number of candidates complained they'd had their signs stolen or vandalized. There were reports of Clark County Commissioner David Madore's signs being slashed, while Republican state Rep. Brandon Vick of Vancouver said his signs had also been cut up and torn. Former Rep. Tim Probst, a Democrat, reported the same thing happening to his signs.

Other times, the authorities take the signs.

There are ordinances limiting where candidates can place campaign signs. When a sign is found in the public right of way, it can be pulled from the ground and confiscated by authorities. The Clark County Elections Office publishes information about where candidates can legally place campaign signs.

Luiz isn't the only candidate to have his signs tampered with over the weekend.

Jim Mains, a political consultant for Vancouver City Council candidate Alishia Topper, had a brush with vandals early Sunday morning when he saw two young men destroying signs belonging to Topper and Vancouver City Councilor Jeanne Stewart.

Mains saw the men, whom he described as being between 18 and 22, pulling up and throwing Topper's campaign signs near Benjamin Franklin Elementary School.

He'd followed the men to the school after hearing a disturbance near his home. He reported the incident to the police.

A total of eight signs were found damaged, he said.

Mains said he didn't think there was always a political motive behind demolished signs. He attributed Sunday morning's sign vandalism to bored kids looking to tear down any new, freestanding object that pops up in a neighborhood.

"I just think its crazy," Mains said. "I always hear how the candidates like to blame the other side. But I really believe it's usually just kids. They see something up and they want to get into mischief."

But in the heat of a primary race against community activist Nathan Stokes and former police chief Tim Hopkin, Luiz wondered whether the sign thefts were politically motivated.

He noted that his signs were the only ones in town that were taken.

"Maybe someone is unhappy with what I've done (on council)," he said.