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Cape Elizabeth candidates disagree on need for campaign signs

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Cape Elizabeth candidates disagree on need for campaign signs

CAPE ELIZABETH — In recent elections, Town Council and School Board candidates have informally agreed to not display campaign signs.

But this year no agreement was reached. Some candidates felt strongly that signs would be helpful to their campaign, a few did not put any signs out and others did so as an afterthought.

School Board candidate Fred Sturtevant and Town Council candidate Kim Monaghan-Derrig were in favor of putting out signs, while others favored the informal no-sign agreement. 

According to incumbent Town Councilor Sara Lennon, candidates have participated in an informal pact to not put up signs for the past three to five years. Sign opponents say they are costly, unattractive and bad for the environment.

"This year, a few people were in favor of putting up their campaign signs, and a lot were not, but it has to be all or nothing, or else it becomes unfair," she said.  "It really is a hassle and not something I want to do,
but we should all be on the same, level playing field."

Sturtevant said he was against the no-sign
agreement because as a relative newcomer, voters may not know his
name. He said he ran unsuccessfully for School Board last year, and
wanted to put his signs to use once more.  

"It is easier to win an election when you are known in town,
are an
incumbent or your family has been here for generations," he said. "I
think as long as the signs are taken down immediately after the election, there is no harm
in putting them up."

Although Monaghan-Derrig has been a
life-long resident of Cape Elizabeth, she, too, is in favor of campaign signs. She said she was a strong advocate against the no-sign agreement.

"For
me it was not a question of if we put our signs out or not, it was how
many am I going to make," she said. "Political signs are a very
successful part of any grassroots campaign. The problem isn't with the
signs, it's the people who don't take them down."

She said
having signs in public places right before the election will spark
interest and encourage voter turnout. She said all forms of marketing
are important in an election; in addition to her signs, she
has gone door-to-door talking to residents, created a Web site and a
Facebook page.

Council candidate Chris Straw said he did not choose to put up signs, but wanted all 13 candidates to agree one way or the other.

"Signs don't vote," Straw said. "People do." He said he found it more effective to talk to people in person.

In addition to Straw, council candidate Jim Walsh and School Board incumbent Peter Cotter have not placed any election signs around town. Walsh ran unsuccessfully against Penny Jordan last January, and agreed then to avoid putting out signs. Cotter said he, too, agreed last election to not place signs along streets. 

"I didn't put signs out last time, and I held to my word this time," Walsh said. "It's not because of the cost or time, but in this election cycle with the number of candidates and the number of issues, it seems that all the signs tend to blend together."

He said other candidates have a right to their own approach, but his position is to not display signs. 

Cotter said he thinks putting out signs is a form of littering that does very little for name recognition.

"Name recognition should come from previous years of public service," Cotter said. "And the amount of signs left over after the election is wasteful and just fills our landfills."

Other candidates were against putting out signs, but ended up doing it anyway.

Like Lennon, Town Council candidate Jessica Sullivan said she was hoping the
candidates would unanimously agree against the signs because they were expensive and cluttered the town.

"There haven't been any
candidate signs up for a few years," she said. "I finally decided to
put up my signs from (last year's) legislative race because others were doing it."

Council Chairman Jim Rowe said each year the candidates gather and decide on their sign approach.

"There can be ramifications both ways," he said. "Either there is clutter and signs all over town, or there are no signs and candidates have no name recognition."

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls will be open at the high school from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net