San Benito GOP reports vandalism, theft of Romney signs

San Benito County’s Republican Party last weekend posted a handful of large signs supporting presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The local party’s chairman on Wednesday reported that one of those signs was vandalized – so it now reads “Romney Lies” – and another was stolen.
The organization learned of the vandalized sign Tuesday when several residents phoned the party, said Marvin Jones, the county Republican Party chairman. It had been placed on a private property, with the owner’s permission, away from the curb at the intersection of Nash Road and Homestead Avenue, Jones said. He explained that vandals painted over the “Ryan” part with “Lies” below Romney’s name. It was among five signs – he said they were 4-by-8 feet – which the Republicans posted around town last weekend.
Jones said such vandalism restricts free-speech rights, while the party Wednesday placed the sign outside its Sixth Street headquarters along with a sheet posted on it asking “Who did this?”
Jones surmised that the vandals were referring to last week’s presidential debate, after which both candidates received criticism for the accuracy of their statements.
“It’s interesting that after the debate, Mr. Romney seemed to perform better than Obama,” Jones said.
He mentioned that Romney critics accused the candidate of lying in the first presidential debate.
“So the talking points have made it all the way to Hollister,” Jones told the Free Lance, which does not post photos of graffiti or vandalism.
The local Republicans’ complaint, meanwhile, comes on the heels of revelations about a racist display in Morgan Hill alluding to President Obama.
The anti-Obama display on Foothill Avenue depicts an empty chair standing on a plywood platform nailed to the top of a white fence that’s visible from the road. On the chair are two watermelons, with a yellow rope tied at one end in the shape of a noose hanging down. In front of the chair, facing it and nailed to a post is a clear piece of glass or plastic with a hand-written message saying, “Go back to Kenya you idiot.”
Outside of the Republicans’ complaint, though, there haven’t been other reports of such election-related theft or vandalism in Hollister. Jones said the Republicans did not report the matter to Hollister police – he contended officers would tell them to file an online report – while Democratic Party Chairman Gregory Rivera could not be reached immediately on the sign matter. As for the stolen sign, Jones said it had been posted at Seventh and Sally streets.
Interim Police Chief David Westrick said such crimes occur every election.
“It’s pretty common,” he said. “Obviously, people are passionate about their politics.”
The Morgan Hill Times contributed to this report.

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