Though supporters have complained about missing campaign signs, the two men running to be Orange County’s next sheriff say its par for the course in election season.
Tuesday’s runoff between David Caldwell and Charles Blackwood will likely mark the end of the most hotly contested sheriff’s race Orange County has seen in three decades.
In the lead up to the second primary, supporters of David Caldwell say they’ve seen campaign signs disappear, but Caldwell himself is downplaying the issue.
“I’ve received several calls from people saying that signs that they’ve put up were missing and they asked if I would want to put any more out or purchase any more,” says Caldwell. “I just advised that was something we didn’t have control over and I could spend their donations to my campaign a lot better on things that I could control, newspaper ads and talking on the radio and things like that.”
Challenger Charles Blackwood says the matter has been blown out of proportion.
“It ain’t our first rodeo. We know signs are going to go out, we know signs are going to be taken,” says Blackwood. “People pay way too much attention to signs. I had a very smart politician tell me early on signs do two things: they make you feel good about seeing your name and they give your helpers something to do. Other than that, they’re a pain.”
Blackwood also notes he’s spent more money on signs than his opponent.
“We do have a tremendous number of signs out. We bought more than they did.”
And he says he’s seen some of the same tactics being used against him.
“I’m confident that David knows that I’m not stealing signs, nor am I telling anyone to steal signs, and I’m confident he’s not stealing my signs,” says Blackwood. “That being said, we’ve lost signs on Orange Grove Road, we’ve lost signs in and around Mount Willing Road, we’ve lost signs in Carrboro around the Weaver Street Market area, we lost one sign at 70A and Churton Street 37 times.”
Matt Hughes is the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. He says while he’s seen this type of behavior on a regular basis, it is usually the work of rogue individuals, not a concerted effort by a campaign.
“I think people get heated in their support of various candidates and sometimes go and do things that are questionable, like stealing campaign signs, which is, the last time I checked, a possibly criminal offense,” says Hughes.
He notes that sometimes, the destruction of signs is more accidental than malicious.
“Road crews, if they’re doing maintenance in public right-of-ways, sometimes do take those signs,” says Hughes. “Sometimes they get chewed up in mulchers, sometimes they are removed. That also creates the perception that signs are being taken.”
Though the winner of Tuesday’s runoff will appear on the ballot in November, there are no Republican challengers, meaning who ever wins the second primary will be Orange County’s next sheriff.
Early voting wraps up Saturday at the Board of Elections office in Hillsborough. Polls will be open at all 44 precincts from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
You can listen to an hour-long forum featuring both candidates here.