Bernard Schoenburg: Disappearing signs mark a passionate election season

If nobody noticed, there’s some pretty intense passion out there this election season, and it appears that campaign signs have become a target of that passion.

“I know that in every election, you see a little bit of that – people destroying signs, people taking signs,” said Springfield Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner, who chairs the Sangamon County Democratic Party, at a news conference last week. “But it has never, ever happened at the level that it’s happening today.”

Turner, along with Democratic State Central Committee member Bill Houlihan and some other stolen-sign victims, met with the press to make the case that people should respect each others’ speech – represented by signs in their yards. Turner and Houlihan both said signs with the name of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on them have been the key target. And with small yard signs featuring names of Biden and running mate Kamala Harris costing about $3 apiece, Turner said, the hundreds of signs taken are worth thousands of dollars.

Houlihan, whose day job is as state director for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, of Springfield, said some Biden-Durbin signs cost $1.61 each.

Houlihan said he and one of his sons put up more 120 signs with Biden’s name in yards over a couple weekends, and about 90 were taken.

Rosemarie Long, who chairs the Sangamon County GOP, says there’s plenty of swiping of signs with the name of President Donald Trump.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come in and had to get more signs because theirs have been torn down or stolen or destroyed,” Long said. “It’s happening just as much on our side.”

Turner said she called Long to discuss the situation. They spent time together on the Sangamon County Board, and both said their instructions to folks they work with are to leave signs alone.

“I don’t think it’s any of our precinct committeemen,” who would be taking down Democratic signs, Long said, “because we always talk about not doing this. But I can’t speak for other people. I mean, there’s a lot going on out there.”

Sign wars are not unusual, but Turner said she was moved to have the news conference because in a 12-square-block area near Springfield’s Washington Park, “every single Biden-Harris sign was taken” last weekend. She said adults are involved, as home-based cameras caught “adult males that are getting out of pickup trucks” taking the signs.

Long related how one of her precinct committeemen did a little detective work through use of a lookout camera.

“During the night … someone in a bathrobe came and stole his Trump sign,” Long said.

One victim of sign-stealing is Grace Nanavati, who lives near Washington Park, says she is financially conservative but socially liberal, and has “morphed more to become a Democrat now.” She said she and her husband decided this year, for the first time, to allow political signs in their yard – and four Biden signs were taken.

“We have had a number of people (from) both parties that we love, that we have supported,” over time, she said. But she also said it was a “family decision” to finally allow their yard to be used to help the Biden-Harris ticket.

“I found myself furious when the signs were taken because it was an affront to what we’re thinking,” she said. “We were just aggravated, really aggravated. So I hope the civility comes to both sides. I don’t want to see anybody’s sign taken down.”

And she said the signs did have an effect.

“I had at least three neighbors email me saying, ‘Bravo,’” Nanavati said. “So it is being noticed.”

Rematch in Montgomery

There’s a rematch this year in the race for Montgomery County state’s attorney, with assistant Sangamon County State’s Attorney Andrew Affrunti again taking on incumbent Bryant Hitchings of Hillsboro.

Democrat Hitchings, 36, a Mongomery County native living in Hillsboro, had worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Coles County, and was appointed to his current job in 2017 when former State’s Attorney Chris Matoush was named a judge. He defeated Republican Affrunti by less than 350 votes out of more than 11,000 cast in the 2018 race to complete the last two years of Matoush’s term at the time.

You don’t have to live in a county to be its state’s attorney, so Affrunti, of Springfield, is allowed to run. If he wins, he said, “eventually we would be looking for a place down there.”

Affrunti, 37, started working as an assistant prosecutor in Sangamon County in 2008, then after a stint prosecuting in Logan County and working in private practice, he returned to the Sangamon County prosecutor’s office in 2013. He says he handles felony cases – mostly involving gangs, guns and narcotics.

Affrunti said he was recruited by Mongtomery County Republicans and appointed to the ballot last time, and ran unopposed in the GOP primary this time. He said he now knows more people in Montgomery County, and law enforcement and some crime victims not satisfied with Hitchings helped recruit him again.

Hitchings says he’s been filing the most felony cases in county history and has a high conviction rate. He also said it can be difficult to explain to families that sometimes there is not provable criminal intent when bad things happen, in cases for example where negligence is involved. He also said living in Hillsboro is helpful to the job.

“It’s routine that I get calls at midnight,” Hitchings said, to “assist with an investigation or help law enforcement in some way.”

Affrunti has dystonia – a condition he’s had since birth that causes muscle tics and tremors. He said it does not get in the way of his job. While much work is on computer, he said if he has to write anything longhand, it takes extra time.

In this campaign, he said, he’s discussed it more than he did in 2018. He said last time, some people wondered why he was “a little bit difficult to understand sometimes on the radio.” He said overcoming the problems the condition “translates into my drive to be successful and be a good prosecutor.”

Hitchings said that Affrunti’s condition is not an issue in the race.

Contact Bernard Schoenburg:, 788-1540,

Region: Springfield,Feeds,Local,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Local Government – The State Journal-Register

September 26, 2020 at 05:15AM

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