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Election '04: Vandalism, 'keyed' cars

Politics has turned ugly in Jackson County.

Republicans say cars with political stickers have been scratched recently, and vandals struck the Democratic headquarters in Medford over the weekend.

They spit all over our doors and windows and broke the bulbs in the sign, said Democratic precinct worker Jean Maack.

Medford police Lt. Mike Moran said the vandalism at Democratic headquarters is still under investigation, and he encouraged anyone with any information to come forward to the police.

We do take it very seriously, he said. They (the suspects) don't have the right to destroy other people's property or steal other people's property.

— Medford resident Phil Frazier called the police last week after his car, which has a Bush/Cheney and Measure 36 stickers, got scratched, and his lawn signs were stolen from his yard.

I just don't understand because you're not going to change somebody's opinion, he said.

Frazier, who's not sure if the scratches were politically motivated, said he will wait until after the election to repair them.

Jonathan Bilden, a Southern Oregon University student, said three cars in his apartment complex in Ashland had their windows smashed during the primary. All three had Bush/Cheney stickers on them.

Bilden, who's state chairman of Oregon College Republicans, said this election has been characterized by high emotions on both sides. I've got a feeling it's just going to get more intense.

Both Republican and Democrats complain that yard signs are being stolen at a higher-than-normal rate ' even signs from Republican headquarters.

We can't keep our Bush sign out in front, said Bilden.

Republicans are having the same problem at home. We have a lot of repeat customers who had their signs stolen, he said.

In Medford, where more than 100 Democratic yard signs have been stolen recently, one resident on Hillcrest Drive has built a wire enclosure around his Kerry/Edwards sign to protect it.

Lois Harrison, an east Medford resident, had two Kerry signs stolen from her yard in consecutive days, so she came up with a novel solution.

I got so angry with the people stealing my signs I put them up a tree to make them work for it, she said. It shows a 74-year-old woman can get up a ladder.

Other Democrats are bringing their signs in at night so they don't get stolen, according to Maack at Democratic headquarters.

Some people had two, three or four stolen, she said.

Bill Layton, chairman of the county's Democratic Central Committee, denounced the vandalism at his headquarters.

It's just a despicable thing for people to do, he said.

This election has produced higher than normal emotions that sometimes turns irrational, Layton said.

He likened the polarization of opinion to the kind of animosity that affects warring religious groups.

I see it in part as a reflection of the fear that the Bush administration has been engendering, he said. They think Bush is going to protect them from terrorism and anything that gets in their way, they react to it.

Bryan Platt, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee, said he has heard of about three Republicans whose cars have been keyed, or scratched.

There is a lot of anger and hatred out there and it is not easily explained, he said. There is an overarching dimension to it that isn't something you would normally consider as part of a political campaign.

Platt condemned any theft of political lawn signs, considering it part of the free expression of ideas protected by the First Amendment.

He particularly condemned any acts of vandalism.

It is very disturbing to hear what is going on down at Medford Demo headquarters, he said.

A resident on Medford's Hillcrest Drive has constructed a wire enclosure around a John Kerry sign to protect it. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli