With just weeks to go before the March primary in California, local supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg say their campaign signs are under siege.
A total of eight signs have reportedly been either removed or sabotaged after only two weeks of being placed in areas throughout Mountain View, sparking frustration from residents campaigning on behalf of the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Other signs have apparently been spared from the spree of vandalism, including those for other Democrats vying to win the 2020 primary.
Removing or defacing campaign signs is unlawful and a misdemeanor offense.
Leslie Murdoch, a Mountain View resident, said he and others have been working to replace all the missing signs, and that the group of supporters "will not be intimidated" by the thefts. He said it's unclear why signs supporting Buttigieg are being targeted, but he wondered whether it had to do with the candidate's sexual orientation.
"In such a progressive area it is unfortunate that people are afraid of free speech and appear intimated by a simple sign," Murdoch said.
The affected signs, seven of which were stolen and another bent over and covered with tape, were all in designated public areas near busy intersections that are typically filled with colorful campaign signs during election season. Signs that were reportedly removed were all located in the southern half of the city, including ones at the intersections of Grant Road and Cuesta Drive; El Camino Real and Phyllis Avenue; Marilyn Drive and Miramonte Avenue; and Cuesta Park Annex.
Signs were also placed on highway entrances for Highway 85 from El Camino Real and Highway 237 from Sylvan Avenue, which is public property owned by Caltrans.
Murdoch said he contacted the Mountain View Police Department, which took the report, but hasn't heard back. He said he also followed Caltrans protocol for placing the signs at highway intersections, and confirmed with officials at the agency that they did not remove the signs by accident. Signs that have been replaced are still there as of this week.
Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson confirmed that the incidents were reported to police on Feb. 10, but that investigators don't have much in the way of information. There is no suspect description, nor do officers know the precise locations, dates or times in which the signs were vandalized.
Campaign vandalism occasionally crops up in local political races in Mountain View, including the destruction of a campaign sign supporting former councilwoman Pat Showalter in 2014 and, in 2018, the late community activist Job Lopez pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of spray-painting a campaign sign for former Councilman John Inks.
But with the Democratic primary heating up and no council race until November, the attention has turned to national races.
Murdoch said he believes there is considerable support locally for Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and that entrepreneur Andrew Yang was also popular in Mountain View and surrounding cities until he dropped out. None of the other candidates in the crowded field appear to have much of a local presence, he said.
Buttigieg was the leading candidate in Iowa and exceeded expectations based on previous polling results, carrying 26.2% of the vote and winning 13 delegates. He trailed closely behind Sanders in New Hampshire, winning 24.4% of the vote and receiving nine of the state's 24 delegates. Murdoch said he believes voters are attracted to Buttigieg's "reasoned policies" and demeanor, and has a strong chance of winning the popular vote in a general election.
"This election is all about winning some of those critical battleground states as all of today's Democratic candidates can win the popular vote," he said. "My wife and I selected Pete as we believe he can win those battleground states as he has unique and resonating attributes of being from a red state, a veteran and deeply religious."
California's primary is being held on March 3, the same day as 13 other states across the country. Known as Super Tuesday, the combined results from the 14 primaries will award more than one-third of the entire country's pledged delegates to candidates, and will heavily influence the outcome of the primary.