Dan Dodge wants to make one thing clear - he's still running for office.
"One person came up and asked me if I was dropping out of the race, because all my signs were gone," the Republican candidate for justice of the peace said Wednesday.
|Click on the map for a larger view|
He's running for the job in the new Highland precinct, which covers most of Gilbert and the Dobson Ranch area of Mesa. Dodge said he has lost nearly 60 roadside campaign signs to theft or vandalism since he started putting them out in June.
When he ran for justice of the peace in 2004, he lost 15 signs the whole campaign.
Other candidates are reporting some sign losses as the Sept. 2 primary nears, but Dodge appears to be the hardest hit.
By comparison, Rep. Russell Pearce, in a high-profile Republican race for the state Senate seat in Mesa's District 18, said, "I've never had the problems that I've had this time" with campaign sign loss, estimating he has lost 20 to 30 of his larger signs.
The plastic signs on metal poles are traditionally magnets for vandalism during election season, but Dodge said in his case it appears to be a coordinated assault, with his entire inventory along Gilbert Road disappearing in one night.
He said he has his suspicions on who is behind the thefts based on where he's seen some of the posts end up, but declined to speculate further.
Dodge said the destruction of the big campaign signs, which cost about $50 each, is "frustrating, because this is not what the race should be about."
"Without the signs you have no public presence, and when people go to vote and see your name they say, 'oh, he's not a real candidate,'" he said.
Dodge has three opponents in the Republican primary, with the winner facing Democrat Jim Gibides Jr. in the Nov. 4 general election, and all have seen the losses to some degree.
"Even though they're my opponents it's not funny, because I know how much they cost," said Eric Tampellini, who doesn't have as many signs to lose because he's running a self-financed campaign. He has lost about a quarter of the 38 he's put on the street.
Another GOP candidate, Jolene Penson, said she hass lost about 25 out of 90 signs, with most of it happening earlier in the season, before she made a point of telling people she had "security" on the signs.
"From early July until now I've lost maybe one or two signs," she said.
J.C. Cox is the only GOP candidate who said sign vandalism has not been a significant problem for his campaign, with only a handful of signs downed by amateurish graffiti that screamed "kids."
"One of them had 'The Dark Knight' logo on it, and 'Why so serious?'" he said.
Anyone who is caught defacing or stealing a campaign sign can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor under state law. A conviction carries up to a four-month jail sentence and a $750 fine.
The cost of campaign signs, like everything else, has gone up. The roadside signs can run $50 to $75, including two to three metal poles, which cost about $7 each.
Former state Rep. Laura Knaparek, running as a Republican for the U.S. House from Congressional District 5, said about 25 percent of her signs have been stolen.
She said it has gotten to the point that if a candidate sees some exposed poles sticking out of the ground, they will stick their own signs onto them and sort out what belongs to who later on.
"It's kind of like all for one and one for all, we don't want the pole poachers to get the poles," she said.