2 county commissioners take vandalism of signs in stride 'Do not' symbols painted on Republicans' posters

August 28, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

In rural Carroll County, home of the ubiquitous billboard, the quintessential dirty trick is to deface a candidate's campaign sign.

But this year, political vandals might be doing County Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates a favor.

Both Republican candidates are facing intense competition in crowded primaries.

Going door to door in a 453-square-mile county that is more than half farmland is virtually impossible. Hardly anyone shows up at political forums, and when they do, candidates are usually limited to no more than five minutes on a two-hour program.

The message of choice, therefore, is billboards.

But so many political and nonpolitical signs crowd the sides of county thoroughfares that advertisers need a gimmick to set their signs apart.

Vandals provided that to Brown and Yates on Wednesday night by painting the international "do not" symbol -- a circle with a diagonal line running through it -- on some of their campaign posters.

Both candidates -- neither of whom had seen the marred signs en route to work yesterday morning -- say they have no intention of removing the defaced signs.

"I'm glad they didn't put a square on it," said Yates. "I wouldn't want people thinking I'm a square. With a circle, they can chase me around, but they can't corner me.

"I say if you have that kind of mentality out there, let them have their fun. If somebody is going to deface your sign in the middle of the night, you're not going to chase them. What can you do when people lurk in dark shadows? People know why I put the signs up -- to advertise my candidacy."

Brown said the vandalism "is not that big a deal," but he is taking it somewhat seriously.

"The problem of people expressing themselves in inappropriate ways goes back to the Garden of Eden," he said. "People have to realize that it costs $50 or more per sign. You're inching into grand-larcenous territory when you start destroying signs. I did my own signs, so I can imagine how much it costs others."

He is going to leave his vandalized signs "right where they are" because "it says more about the people who did it than it says about me," Brown said. "Frankly, I'll be glad when everybody takes down their signs. I don't like the signs because it makes the countryside messy. But that's still no excuse for defacing somebody else's property."

If the vandal were caught, would Brown press for prosecution? "Yes, indeed," he said.

Incumbent Sheriff John H. Brown, who is not related to the county commissioner, and Kenneth Tregoning, the sheriff's GOP primary opponent, report vandalism of a different sort. Many of their signs are disappearing, they say. Missing-sign reports are the most common dirty-tricks complaint in any local election.

County Commissioner Brown, who was twice elected mayor of Westminster before winning a seat on the County Commission in 1994, is running for one of three seats in the House of Delegates.

Yates, the leading vote-getter in 1994 when he succeeded in his first try for elective office, has to compete with 13 other candidates in the Republican primary for county commissioner next month. If he survives that, he will have to run against three Democrats and an independent in the general election.

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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