Texas

These signs don’t show an elephant’s trunk under a skirt. But they, too, are vanishing

Sandra Juarez just wanted to show her support for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

So she bought a yard sign for the Republican — who is embroiled in a fierce re-election bid against Democrat U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke — and proudly planted it in her Arlington yard.

In less than a week, it was gone.

She happened to have a second Cruz sign, so she put that one in her yard.

It, too, was gone in a matter of days.

“I guess it’s part of politics,” Juarez said. “But now I don’t have any sign in my yard because I can’t afford to buy more. I’ve been seeing all these Beto signs and I wanted people to know there are a lot of Cruz supporters out there.”

Political yard signs have been in the news lately, particularly one showing an elephant with a trunk up a girl’s skirt that was confiscated by police and another that prompted a retaliatory message, creating dueling yard signs that had many neighbors laughing.

Now, with the election weeks away, yard signs are disappearing at an increasing rate in Tarrant County and throughout the state.

A number of Texans are posting on social media that it seems O’Rourke and Cruz signs are stolen the most.

Some say it’s OK.

“Every time you steal a Beto sign, you end up donating a handful of cash to his campaign & help elect him because someone just buys another,” Democrat Chelsea Roe recently posted on Facebook. “And people really don’t care how many $5 donations they make.

“So thanks, haters.”

Depending on the size, political yard signs generally cost around $5 or $10, more if shipping costs are required.

Theft of one of these signs from someone’s private property generally would be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $100, Fort Worth police Lt. Brandon O’Neil said.

‘Please stop’

Republican Mona Bailey said it’s rare for her North Richland Hills neighborhood to have many yard signs promoting Democratic candidates. But signs for Beto O’Rourke have been popping up in a number of yards, prompting some neighbors to put Ted Cruz signs in their yards as well.

Then Bailey saw posts on social media about some signs being stolen.

“Someone in our neighborhood is stealing all the Beto yard signs, and it’s only energizing the Beto voters,” she posted on Facebook. “Whoever you are, please stop. It isn’t helping.”

One post noted that a Beto sign had been stolen — and the victim thought Cruz supporters in the neighborhood were the culprits.

“I immediately went on the posting page and said I was sorry to hear about it,” said Bailey, a Republican precinct leader. “We don’t condone it. And I asked if possibly one had a camera and can record” to catch future thieves.

“We should never be stealing each other’s signs.”

Democrat Phillip Hennen agrees.

The Democratic precinct chairman in Fort Worth also noticed a number of posts on social media about stolen political yard signs.

So he wrote his own message, offering to replace stolen Democratic political signs in the Westcliff and Westcliff West neighborhoods, if he could.

None of the signs he has in his yard — promoting Democrats from O’Rourke to Agriculture Commissioner Kim Olson, as well as several other candidates in races further down the ballot — have been stolen.

‘Passions run high’

Hennen said he’s surprised signs have been taken.

“I can’t picture what the motivation would be,” the 63-year-old Fort Worth man said. “It would seem it would elicit bad publicity to be doing that.

“But in politics, sometimes passions run high.”

Hennen said he has replaced several Democratic signs that have been stolen, all touting O’Rourke’s bid for the U.S. Senate. And he has more to hand out.

“I wish that our political environment was more gentle and cooperative,” he said. “I wish people weren’t being ugly.”

Bailey agrees.

“I hope they find who was stealing the signs,” Bailey said. “It doesn’t help your side at all to steal yard signs. It gives them a black eye when it happens.”

She said she firmly believes that yard signs make a difference in the election.

“Yard signs instill someone’s name in your memory,” she said. “There are a lot of independent voters, or people who aren’t really sure. When they get in the voting booth, their mind goes to the fact that they’ve seen a number of signs for a certain candidate.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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