Local Election

Officials question intent of vandals targeting Whatcom County executive campaign signs

Campaign signs for some candidates in the Whatcom County executive race are being stolen and vandalized, and one candidate has made an official report.

Satpal Sidhu, a member of the County Council who’s one of four people running for county executive in the Aug. 6 primary election, said several of his larger signs have been damaged or stolen at major intersections, and his supporters are reporting theft or vandalism of their yard signs on private property.

“The public needs to know about it,” Sidhu said in an interview with The Bellingham Herald.

Sidhu said that because of the current political climate, he suspects the incidents could be related to his status as an immigrant and naturalized American.

“Why am I being singled out?” said Sidhu, who was born in India and emigrated to the United States from Canada.

Last weekend, a Sikh berry farmer reported that a Sidhu campaign yard sign was damaged with wire cutters, said Jedidiah Holmes, Sidhu’s campaign manager.

“The person or persons involved here acted with specific intent and foresight,” Holmes said in an email. “Pulling up or kicking over a sign is one thing, but bringing along snippers and cutting off metal stakes seems to be a very intentional and demonstrative act, as they left all the pieces there for the property owner to see. That seems to be a deliberative signal to Satpal supporters, and in this case, the property owner’s ethnicity was likely not unknown to the perpetrators.”

Holmes said there’s been no overt racism directed toward Sidhu or his supporters, but it makes campaign officials wonder about the vandals’ intent.

“We’re kind of shrugging it off,” he said in an interview. “But it’s kind of sad.”

Sidhu said he reported the theft and damage of the larger campaign signs to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

Each of the 4-foot by 8-foot signs was worth about $120 to $150, Sidhu said. A total of four such signs were stolen or vandalized, he said.

In some cases, the signs vanished, and vandals damaged other signs so that they fell.

Undersheriff Doug Chadwick said the incidents occurred June 21 at the corner of Everson-Goshen and Pole roads and at a second location on Pole Road.

“Over the years, we have had numerous persons running for office contact us (about vandalism),” Chadwick said in an interview. “Yes, it’s unusual. But it does seem to occur.”

Haylee Anderson, campaign manager for county executive candidate Karen Burke, said the campaign recently noticed yard signs disappearing, mostly in South Bellingham, and candidate Jim Boyle said he’s had reports of a few signs go missing.

Candidate Tony Larson said that his supporters have reported missing signs too — but all were the smaller yard signs.

“It’s just totally and utterly inappropriate,” Larson said in an interview. “Everyone should condemn that kind of behavior.”

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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