By Miriam Raftery
October 24, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – A rash of sign-stealing and defacement has marred the campaign trail in East County communities including Santee, Lakeside, El Cajon. The latest targets are large signs criticizing gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
Vandals in Santee cut the name “Meg” out of numerous 4 x 8 foot signs that read: “What’s Meg Hiding? $200 million to buy election; didn’t vote for 28 years; caters to the rich and corporations. What’s her REAL agenda?” ECM photographer Dennis Richardson spotted at least four of the damaged signs this afternoon--and noticed several others had gone missing completely.
Sign-stealing is also alive and well this campaign season. El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis told East County Magazine that a brazen thief stole one of his campaign signs—right off the Mayor’s front lawn. In La Mesa, at least two City Council candidates and both Mayoral candidates report thefts of their signs.
Madrid was also victimized by pranksters who attached an add-on reading “Mr. Drink and Drive” to his reelection signs. (Madrid has never been charged with drinking and driving, though a companion was following an incident in February 2008 in which the Mayor was escorted home by police after being found intoxicated on a public street. His opponent, Laura Lothian, has her own history of alcohol issues. Her 19-year-old daughter pled guilty to violating La Mesa’s social host ordinance by having around 100 under-age teen drinkers, Jello shooters and hard liquor at a party in Lothian’s home earlier this year.)
Santee Council candidate Ben Kalasho was the victim of a particularly ugly prank. Signs reading “Vote for Kalasho: The Arab Leader Santee Needs” with Arabic writing that translates to “disgusting, nasty” started popping up around the community, KFMB TV (Channel 8) reported. According to Jimmy Greene, when he contacted the Kalasho campaign to report the strange signs, “He said `The funny thing is, I’m Polish.’”
Stealing or vandalizing campaign signs can result in harsh penalties for offenders, including grand theft charges if a significant number of signs are taken.
Some people have fought back. A Congressional candidate in East County several years ago asked police to file charges against a primary opponent whose roommate was spotted taking signs. An El Cajon man was convicted of sign stealing in yet another case.
A homeowner who had a sign stolen elsewhere in East County replaced it with a new one that read “Though shalt not steal.”
A Santee resident, angered after an Obama sign was taken from his property, got the last laugh. He went to a copy shop, got an Obama sign enlarged to huge proportions and added his own message. “Someone stole my Obama sign. Vote Obama,” read the sign, which the homeowner also illuminated with lights to make sure passersby could read his new sign after dark. “The thief didn’t come back,” he told East County Magazine.