It’s election time in the US, so it’s time for candidates in towns throughout America to take to social media to complain about their campaign signs being stolen. You can’t really blame them, in particular new candidates who haven’t experienced this phenomena before. They drive around town and they see that some of the signs they put up are now gone, or they get a call from a supporter saying that the sign they put on their lawn is no longer there. The first conclusion that comes to mind is that their opponent took them. Indeed, perhaps the candidates themselves had been tempted to remove their opponent’s signs, but had exercised self control and not done so. It’s easy to believe their opponents were weaker.
In reality, the disappearing of candidate lawn signs is so ubiquitous, it happens so often and in so many campaigns that you can’t just blame opponents for it – unless you believe everyone who runs for office is unethical and a would-be-thief. Indeed, I’ve worked in the campaigns of candidates whose opponents complained their signs had been removed, and I know for a fact my candidates’ campaigns hadn’t taken them – so clearly it has to have been someone else.
Here are my theories as to what happens to the signs:
– If left in public spaces, they are often removed by Public Works or even by neighbors that find them offensive.
– If left in private commercial property, they may be removed by the owner or an employee – unaware of whether the candidate was given permission to put it up (many candidates don’t even ask).
– If placed in the actual lawn of a home:
- The homeowners may actually have not wanted the sign or they thought better of it and they removed it themselves, but don’t want to let the candidate know this.
- Another member of the household may have removed it without letting the homeowner know (my own daughter has been doing this for the last couple of elections!).
- Landscapers may have removed it to work on the lawn and not put it back
- People passing by or neighbors who dislike the candidate or the sign itself may have removed it.
- The sign may have been damaged by children or pets and quietly removed and thrown away by their keepers.
- The sign may have been vandalized or stolen by the sort of people who vandalize public property.
- And yes, occasionally it may be that a member of an opponent’s campaigns has taken them down. Though in general, I would suspect a supporter of the opponent rather than someone actually working in the campaign. It’s just too risky for the latter to be caught.
So if you are a candidate running and you are having your signs disappear (as you are likely to), please consider all of these possibilities before you start blaming your opponent and planning revenge!
Election season means one other thing: endorsement drama. There is always a candidate ready to cry foul over their opponent claiming an endorsement that they supposedly did not get. I’m sure that this happens occasionally, but most of the time there is a better explanation:
- The named endorser actually endorsed the candidate and forgot about it! (This happened to Congressman Mark DeSaulnier who denied he had endorsed Senator Ellen Corbett in her race to challenge Eric Swalwell, only to be presented by an endorsement slip he had signed a year before).
- The named endorsers had endorsed the candidate but changed their mind and did not communicate this clearly to the candidate.
- The named endorser had endorsed the candidate but were challenged on it, and are now pretending the endorsement never happened at all (this can be done with or without the agreement of the candidate).
- The named endorsers had endorsed the candidate but withdrew their endorsement and the candidate failed to update their literature or website.
- In cases where a name has been removed, the named endorsers had endorsed the candidate but withdrew their endorsement and the candidate does not want to draw attention to this fact
- The named endorser communicated support for the candidate which the candidate incorrectly interpreted to be an endorsement.
So, again, before jumping to the conclusion that your opponent is making up endorsements, consider one of the more likely possibilities outlined above.