Stolen signs span parties
WORTHINGTON -- A day after Nobles County Democrats coordinated a press conference to speak of missing signs for presidential candidate Barack Obama, area Republicans made it clear their rivals aren't alone in the problem of theft and vandalism.
Zuby Jansen of Worthington, a past Nobles County Republicans chair who remains active with the party, began distributing yard signs from her home right around King Turkey Day. It wasn't long before thefts begin, she said.
"It's been happening all along," she explained of the stolen signs. "From past experience, this happens, and you just know it's going to happen. You just accept it as part of the political game that is played, and to say that just one side is having their signs taken is ridiculous. It isn't that way at all."
Just as DFLers claim that sign theft has been limited to those supporting Obama, Republicans have experienced a similar problem.
"It's been basically (John) McCain signs," Jansen said. "Signs have been taken out in Worthington and in the county, too.'
Joyce McCarthy, Nobles County Republicans chairwoman and an Adrian resident, confirmed the thefts.
"We have had numerous cases throughout the county and the city of Republican signs disappearing," McCarthy said. "It's been mostly McCain-(Sarah) Palin signs, but some other cases as well. In some cases they're just gone, and other cases they've been destroyed -- it's been a little bit of both."
In Worthington, signs have been distributed at the homes of Jansen and her husband, Ken, and Jacoba Nagel. Nagel said she's out of McCain signs, and there "have been a few McCain signs taken around town."
"I got a call this morning from someone to say theirs was missing," Nagel stated. "Down the street, they've been hit twice. ... One time the sign was taken, and another was taken out of the ground. I also found a McCain-Palin sign crumpled up in Inner City Park; that was close to where one had been taken on the south end of Omaha Avenue."
Nagel added that she put signs for Republican candidates Rod Hamilton, Brian Davis and Norm Coleman on her property since around Turkey Day. She placed her McCain-Palin sign sometime afterward, and "that's the only one that's been taken out of the ground," she said.
Nagel noted that she still has signs supporting Hamilton and Davis to distribute to people, but none remaining for Coleman and McCain. The thefts, she said, have almost come to be expected, and she recalled an instance in which several political signs were found in a ditch a few years ago.
"I've had so much vandalized -- like Christmas lights, through the years, too," said Nagel, who is the Nobles County Republicans' representative for District 22B. "I kind of figure it's kids who don't have anything else to do."
Jansen agreed, deeming the sign thefts as "mischievous stuff, basically" and an unfortunate part of political campaigns, adding that she believed that's part of why police reports aren't always made when thefts occurred.
"People should just respect each other's property, but it just happens," Jansen said. "I think that's why Republicans don't make a big deal out of it, and just go get another. ... I really don't think it's adults taking signs. It's probably juveniles."
McCarthy said what's been transpiring throughout Nobles County has been commonplace throughout Minnesota.
"This isn't just a problem here, it's statewide," she said. "I drove home from the Cities and saw some signs that had been defaced with paint. I talked to some campaign people in the St. Paul areas, and they said McCain-Palin signs had been taken. The Republican Party has also told me that there've been signs taken throughout the state."
McCarthy stated that she encouraged people who get their signs stolen to report the crime to the police.
"I don't want to point fingers or speculate as to what's happening," she said, "For some people, this is their way of campaigning. They might not be going door-to-door, they might not be making phone calls ... and the signs are a visible reminder to go out there and vote."
Worthington Police Department Sgt. Chris Dybevick reiterated Thursday that local law enforcement will continue to investigate reports of stolen political signs, adding that youths were caught in the act of a theft Wednesday night.
"At approximately 9:30 p.m. (Wednesday), five juvenile males between ages 14 and 17 were caught on Okabena Street taking political signs," Dybevick said. "It was as a joke for a friend -- there were no political reasons, there were no racial reasons.
"Because of the cooperation of the kids and parents, the signs were returned to their owner and the complaining political party, and through discussions with County Attorney Gordon Moore and the Worthington Police Department, no charges will be filed. The parents were pretty cool -- they were mad at their kids, and they made them march right back and return the signs."