10/23/2018 0 Comments
Five or more yard signs for Democratic candidates were set on fire in a Richardson neighborhood Monday night, officials said.
Police received three calls in a 30-minute span — one at 11 p.m., another at 11:06 and the third at 11:28 — reporting that yard signs for Beto O'Rourke and Colin Allred had been lit on fire in the Arapaho Heights neighborhood west of Heights Park, Sgt. Kevin Perlich said.
O'Rourke is running to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in next month's midterm elections, and Allred is looking to oust Pete Sessions in the 32nd Congressional District.
Chris Terry and her wife were reading Monday night when their dog, Jack, started barking. Then, the doorbell rang: A man from the Fire Department was at the door to let them know their O'Rourke and Allred yard signs had been set ablaze, along with a handful of others nearby.
Terry took photos of the signs and their burned edges Tuesday afternoon at her home on Northlake Drive. She said she had one sign stolen before, but the fires were shocking and upsetting.
"I want to draw a mustache on the Ted Cruz sign, but I won't, because the ability to support who you want to support is a pretty basic tenet of the architecture of our democracy," Terry said. "And it's private property — you don't just step in someone's yard and light their sign on fire.
Terry said that she couldn't sleep after all the commotion and that the attack motivated her to donate an extra $25 each to the campaigns of O'Rourke, Allred, lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier and Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakotan Democrat hoping to keep her Senate seat. Terry also signed up for a three-hour volunteer shift with Rideshare2Vote, an organization driving voters to the polls.
Terry's wife, Michael Graffeo, said she was just grateful that whoever set the fires didn't wake up their daughter, "or they would've had the wrath of the momma bear."
A few houses down on Northlake Drive, Christine Moldenhauer said she discovered her O'Rourke sign had been torn from its metal posts and keyed, but it wasn't burned
Paige Hutchinson, Colin Allred's campaign manager, said the campaign hadn't been aware of the signs being burned. "I would just say it's a real shame to hear that this is happening," she said, noting that anyone who had an Allred sign that was vandalized could contact the campaign, and Allred would deliver a new one.
O'Rourke's campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Missy Shorey, chairwoman of the Dallas County Republican Party, said what happened to the signs was "unacceptable."
"People need to keep in mind that harming signs is against the law, end of story," Shorey said.
The Dallas County Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Donovan said that she had heard of signs being stolen, but not set on fire. That, she said, showed more malicious intent.
This Richardson neighborhood wasn't the first to see yard signs defaced ahead of the election. In September, one Houston resident told local news station KPRC-TV that his O'Rourke sign that had been stolen. Another found his Ted Cruz sign had been spray-painted with an "X" over it. The McAllen Monitor reported that a South Texas attorney's "Beto for Senate" sign had been marked wifith red spray paint. The Richardson Fire Marshal's Office is looking for leads on who might have set the fires, Fire Marshal Wesley Caskey said. He said the department suspected that the same person or group of people was responsible for all of the fires.
Caskey said officials with the fire marshal's office went door-to-door asking neighbors if they had seen anything or had video footage that might have captured the fires.
Whoever is responsible would likely be charged with criminal mischief — not arson, a charge used in cases where homes or buildings are set on fire, Caskey said.
Caskey said that in more than a decade at the fire marshal's office, he had never seen campaign signs lit on fire. But Perlich, the police spokesman, said that vandalism or stolen campaign signs aren't uncommon, and that the behavior is not specific to this election cycle.
Anyone with information about the fires may contact the Richardson Fire Marshal's Office at 972-744-5750 or by email at FMO@cor.gov.
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