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Vandalism escalates as Election Day nears

Vandals defaced the Republican Party headquarters early Friday and shredded a Biden-Harrison sign on Crab Creek Road at Berea Church Road overnight Friday. [BILL MOSS/Hendersonville Lightning] Vandals defaced the Republican Party headquarters early Friday and shredded a Biden-Harrison sign on Crab Creek Road at Berea Church Road overnight Friday. [BILL MOSS/Hendersonville Lightning]

Sign warfare is raging as party activists march into the stretch drive of a high-stakes presidential election that seems to be escalating vandalism on both sides.

Republican and Democratic leaders say the defacement, destruction and theft of signs had reached a peak in recent weeks ahead of an election that is just 24 days away.

Early Friday, someone taped graffiti on the storefront window of the local Republican Party headquarters in the Four Seasons shopping center on Four Seasons Boulevard. An image time-stamped at 1:38 a.m. Friday shows a man who appears to be talking to someone and then leaves the frame and seems to be casing the area.

"Just dirty politics," GOP Chair Merry Guy said. "Last night seemed to be a concerted effort. They hit Transylvania County as well. I think we need to pursue the people that are doing it and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law and we intend to do that. I talked to another person that had images similar to mine on security cameras at home in a place that had been vandalized. We're all going to be working together. There was so much done that sooner or later somebody's going to be able to identify someone."

"You know how it is," Guy said when told that Democratic leaders had also been reporting a rash of vandalism. "We're going to say they're worse, they're going to say we're worse. I think both party leadership (should), and I certainly have already and will continue to denounce all forms of vandalism. I don't see the concerted attack on the left like I'm seeing on the right right now. A lot of work went into what went on" in the darkness early Friday.

Guy said she fears the commotion over the signs detracts from a civil discussion of immigration, taxes, the economy and other issues she thinks tilt in favor of Trump and the GOP.

In an appeal she submitted to the Hendersonville Lightning, Dawn Kucera, a Democratic activist, lamented the rash of theft and vandalism.

"It’s election season, and some ugly history is repeating itself in Hendersonville," she said.

In 2012 and 2016, she said, hundreds of Obama-Biden and Clinton-Kaine signs disappeared and though party officials filed police reports, no arrests were made.

"Cognizant of that history, local Democratic activist Karl Silverman started checking signs out where he lives along Kanuga Road as soon as they started going up," Kucera wrote. "He noted the location of Biden/Harris signs, and sure enough, most had disappeared within a day or two.

In Laurel Park, Ann McFadden one day in mid-September put up a Biden-Harris sign in her yard and eight more in the Hebron Road area. "The next day, six of the signs were gone," Kucera said. "The day after that, the one in her yard was missing."

State law makes it a class 3 misdemeanor to steal, deface, vandalize or unlawfully remove a political sign that has been lawfully placed in a yard or on the roadside.

Josh Denton, another Democratic activist, said Saturday that about half the 700 yard Democratic signs had been stolen and of 13 large signs on wooden 4x4s, five were defaced or damaged.

Only one arrest has been announced by law enforcement agencies.

Last week, Henderson County sheriff’s deputies charged a 49-year-old Hendersonville man with stealing Cawthorn for Congress signs after reports of the sign theft on Sept. 21 in Mills River. After a report was filed, an investigation began and a warrant was obtained for misdemeanor larceny. Jonathan Michael Campbell turned himself in to the Henderson County Detention Center on Friday.

In a news release on Friday, Cawthorn, the Republican nominee, denounced the vandalism, which he blamed on "far-left fringe Antifa groups."

“Personally, my home was targeted and my property vandalized by thugs acting in support of my opponent's vision for this district," he said.

The Transylvania County Sheriff's Office is investigating the defacement of a Trump sign with a swastika near Brevard High School also in the predawn hours Friday, WLOS news reported.

“This is the very first time I can remember a racist sign, symbol, being painted on a sign,” Transylvania County Chief Deputy Eddie Gunter told the station. “People don’t think about those signs as being somebody’s property, but it is property damage. It is illegal. It is a misdemeanor."