Nothing announces the arrival of election season like campaign sign violations, which have begun in La Plata County.
Several Democratic campaign signs for state and local candidates, including District 59 state House candidate Barbara McLachlan and incumbent County Commissioner Julie Westendorff, were found vandalized Thursday morning on Crestview Drive near Montview Parkway. The signs, which hang on a private fence, were defaced with black spray-paint, obscuring the candidates’ names. Locals reported the damage to the Durango Police Department; a spokesman said the department has had no other reports this election season.
Mary Karraker, office manager for La Plata County Democrats, has volunteered with the party since 2004. She said foolery with campaign signs is commonplace during any election cycle. “I think this election is very vitriolic, and we may see more of that,” Karraker said. “I don’t know if the people who did it think they’re patriots, but the Constitution guarantees free speech. We have other signs and will replace them, but we hope this doesn’t happen again.”
La Plata County Republican Central Committee Chairman Travis Oliger said signs for GOP candidates also have been defaced. He said signs for Lyle McKnight, who is challenging incumbent County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt for the District 2 seat, have been spray-painted, kicked down or simply taken.
Ginny Chambers, first vice chairwoman of the Republican committee, said she personally has not seen damage done to her party’s signs, but she has heard of a few stolen. “The Trump signs haven’t gone out yet,” she said. “Once the presidential signs go up, we’ll probably start seeing some problems.”
County Code Enforcement Officer Marianna Spishock could not be reached Thursday, but last month, she said the county had not received any election-related complaints yet, but the season was still young.
Steve Barkley, a city code enforcement officer, said Durango also has been quiet, but signs shouldn’t be up yet in the first place. City code prohibits displaying campaign signs earlier than 30 days before ballots are mailed, which is Oct. 17 this year. The city permits one sign per candidate per property, and all signs must be removed within three days after the general election. They must be at least 200 feet from a polling station, cannot exceed 12 square feet, and cannot be displayed in a public right-of-way or on a utility pole. Under county regulations, signs may not exceed 20 square feet.