• Dirty Politics In A Small Town

    May 13, 2024
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    It sounds like a political thriller: sign stealing, strong arming citizens, trashing signs, questioning a candidate's reputation and bullying his supporters.

    It's not. It's the current political climate in Oxford, Maryland as the town of 650 residents prepares for the election of a new town commissioner on June 18th.

    If you have ever lived in or visited Oxford, you may not think that an upcoming election would inspire the same kind of disgusting antics that bigger county, state and national elections suffer. After all, it is a beautiful little town on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

    You would be wrong.

    You need to understand the context of this election, it was a very turbulent 2023 in Oxford:

    Theme For Oxford In 2023: Violated Trust - Easton Gazette

    That turbulence had drastic effects on the town, somewhat like the "wakes" created when cars drive through the town's occasionally flooded neighborhoods. Those wakes are small in comparison to what is going on now.

    The population of Oxford are good, honest, friendly people. But, with the election approximately a month away, it seems some of them have lost their minds. Via intimidation, coercion, and other sneaky means, some people attempt to convince citizens to take the campaign signs of one candidate out of their yards or from in front of businesses. To paraphrase: " Nice place you got here. Wouldn't want to hurt your business. Wouldn't want you excluded from town social events. You might not want that sign out front."

    Arm twisting, threats and bullying not only give a campaign a thuggish look, but also betray their desperation.

    There's more. Promises of important committee assignments or favors from the town are made in order to garner votes. Want to be head of a certain powerful committee? Support this candidate. Want a permit or exemption for a special project? Take down that other candidate's sign. Want to be invited to the town's best social events? Don't even think of supporting that other guy.

    People speak about wanting to vocally support one candidate or put up a sign, but they are AFRAID of repercussions from the town office/government.

    Yes it's true. The very people who host and are invited to the town's best dinner and cocktail parties are out and about making sure only one candidate's signs are seen. Signs are even being stolen from people's property and then thrown in the trash.

    Signs in a yard with the homeowner's permission one day...

    Removed overnight...

    And thrown in the location above by a local real estate agent. Frank Underwood* would be proud.

    In one case it was even worse.

    Signs from one yard were unceremoniously thrown into this dumpster.

    Sadly, they are not only trashing signs but trying to trash the reputation of the candidate by spreading lies about him and his campaign. It's called a "whispering" campaign and it's a well-known technique in dictatorships throughout history.

    Are people alarmed by these tactics? Not all of them.

    A few people in the town have been heard saying that the problems the town is having right now are because we have "two candidates in the race".  They want one candidate, the one whose signs are being stolen, to step down, so we would have only one candidate running (the other guy) and this would unite our town. How Putin-like.

    They have a name for that kind of unity. It's called dictatorship and one-party rule. Are these people that gullible?

    When campaigns resort to these tactics, they are worried their candidate won't win. The very existence of a good old fashioned fair election scares them to death. What information will come to light if their candidate doesn't win?

    Of course, we can't imagine either candidate would condone this behavior. After all, isn't America about having elections, making a choice, and getting to show support for your candidate freely and without threat of reprisal? Isn't political speech protected under the Constitution?

    We call on BOTH candidates to remind their supporters that interfering in any way with political signs or someone's political speech is not only unethical and unconstitutional but could be a misdemeanor offense. If one of their supporters is engaging in this activity, the candidate MUST publicly denounce and condemn the behavior and stop it.

    In Talbot County, stealing or defacing political yard signs is against the law as is any vandalism or theft. The county has specific regulations to address this issue. Here are the key points:

    In Talbot County, Maryland, as well as in all 50 states, theft or vandalism of political signs is considered a crime. Taking down or defacing campaign yard signs is prohibited1. While the specific penalties may vary by state, most treat such conduct as a misdemeanor. In Maryland, for instance, misdemeanors can result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days or even a year in jail. Additionally, criminal trespass—entering someone else’s private property without permission—is also often treated as a misdemeanor with similar penalties1.

    Besides that, it's not what we do in Oxford. Our town deserves better than the actions of a few childish partisans.

    If your sign is destroyed, consider reporting it to local law enforcement and avoid retaliating. If possible, have video from a security camera and pictures. Remember, stealing or defacing someone's political signs is a violation of their Constitutional Right to free speech.

    If your neighbor has a sign up supporting a candidate you don't support, make the choice to respect that and them.

    Most important, remember to register to vote by May 17th if you need to register and VOTE on June 18th!

    Notes: Some residents have complained about the abundance of campaign signs in town. They don't like "how it looks." Reminder, this is our representative democracy and freedom in action, and it is beautiful! Besides, the few months of signs are a wonderful reminder that we have a choice in this country. Embrace it.

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    *Frank Underwood was the main character of the series HOUSE OF CARDS

    Fear of Transparency: House Of Cards Collapsing In Oxford

    Small Town Stands Against Nasty Politics Overwhelmingly

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    Author

    Jan Greenhawk

    Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.
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