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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Campaign Signs Sprout Around Town, Spur Emotions

Campaign Signs Sprout Around Town, Spur Emotions
(Appeared as the lead on New Canaan 10/12/10)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

The signs of Fall are all around us. Political campaign signs that is… and they’ve sprouted up all over New Canaan in advance of November 2 elections for national and state offices from governor to state senate. Placed with a passion, these wire-frame and plastic mini billboards are stirring emotions both good and bad.

Ginny Apy, Democratic Town Committee Chair, says her office receives an abundance of materials from each candidate, with the greatest volume coming from the widest-reaching campaigns. These are distributed to committee volunteers, homeowners requesting them and reps from various districts. ”I often get requests for signs to counteract others from another party, like a Blumenthal to counter a McMahon,” said Apy.

Apy says placement rules are “very strict”, dictated by the Department of Transportation and Tone Zoning. Signs can only be posted on one’s own property and if posted on town or state property, they are subject to confiscation and a fine to the candidate. It is the responsibility of the sign placer to also remove it.

“New Canaan didn’t used to allow signs until about 15 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is freedom of speech,” said Apy. Since the allowance, complaints are common to town departments. “I will get an occasional email – usually about a Republican sign being on state property. I don’t forward these – that’s a Zoning issue.”

As far as any other issues, Apy said, “Sometimes signs are taken by kids.” With regard to their effectiveness, Apy added, “They’re most effective in encouraging people to go out and vote, whichever party they follow.”

James O’Hora, Republican Town Committee Chair, thought the signs his office distributes are definitely effective. “They demonstrate a level of support and name recognition that is key, particularly with a very local race like we had in August for a new probate judge.”

O’Hora said his committee is sensitive about placing signs. “We try not to put them out until two weeks before an election – a compromise to people who think they look tacky or unbecoming.” He added, “I do hear some old-timers say ‘I know who I’m not voting for’ when they see signs, which is ridiculous.”

“People have been energized by this campaign, which has attracted more and different kinds of supporters,” said O’Hora. “Linda McMahon’s campaign has driven some women to get the word out.”

O’Hora said there had been raiding of signs, which homeowner Peter McLeer confirmed. “My signs have been taken down three times,” the South Avenue resident said. “I suspect a follower of someone opposing candidates.” McLeer’s signs enjoy a prominent spot near the parkway, viewable by many motorists.

Like other sign placers, campaign issues had motivated the placement. “I’m very concerned with the direction of the opponents on the national and local level and am doing my small part to help. If it sways just a few voters, it will be worth it.”