MATTHEWS – Campaign signs are mysteriously disappearing as the town prepares for its upcoming election.
When mayoral candidate John Higdon drove around Matthews, he noticed a significant decrease in the number of his campaign signs, especially around U.S. 74 near Costco, N.C. 51 and Phillips Road.
Higdon filed a police report when he saw his campaign signs in a dumpster outside of a local business but said he believes the disappearance of signs is a separate instance specifically directed toward him.
“It’s obvious that I was being targeted when every sign I’ve placed is gone,” Higdon said. “It looked like somebody went out this past Friday or Saturday night and just took off every sign they could find of mine because there were whole roads that I had placed signs on that were 100% all gone.”
The act of stealing campaign signs is unusual in Matthews, Higdon said. He recalled an incident a few years ago when campaign signs were found at a fraternity in Chapel Hill.
“I’m hopeful that it’s something like that and that it’s not anybody that I’m running against,” Higdon said. “I’m certainly not accusing anyone I’m running against of doing this. It’s a pretty terrible thing and very unusual in Matthews. I’m in my third term as a commissioner and I’ve never seen signs being pulled up to this extent.”
Higdon estimated that 50 to 60 of his campaign signs, as well as the stakes keeping them in the grass, have been stolen, taking away $500 to $600 he used toward his campaign.
He has taken to NextDoor to call on citizens to report if they see someone taking the signs in the middle of the night, offering a $500 reward to the successful criminal persecution of the person taking the signs.
“It’s a class three misdemeanor to remove [the signs], so I’m hoping that with my reward, maybe someone will speak up,” Higdon said.
Higdon is not the only candidate whose signs have been stolen. Town commissioner candidates Mark Tofano and Ken McCool’s campaigns have also been taken.
Tofano said he is still trying to figure out the number of stolen signs. He has noticed a pattern in the locations his signs used to be that have led him to wonder if the stealing is intentional, though he cannot be entirely sure.
“The odd part about it, and this is just an observation, I don’t have any facts to base this on at all because I don’t know the count of the signs of the opposition, but it appears that wherever my signs are missing, the signs of people that are associated with Mayor Bailey are still in tact,” Tofano said. “So, one can only imagine that it may be a supporter of Mayor Bailey’s, someone who is taking this situation in their own control. But I’m not making any accusations or anything of that nature, it’s just purely an observation at this point.”
Tofano said the majority of the signs that have disappeared were originally placed along N.C. 51 to Sam Newell Road.
Though the candidates are frustrated their campaign signs have vanished, they are not letting it discourage them.
“Our stolen signs will continue to be replaced,” Town commissioner candidate Ken McCool wrote in an email to the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly. “Our campaign remains focused on respecting other candidates that are running. Stealing signs does not represent the Town of Matthews, our values or our morals. Our campaign will continue to run on the cornerstones of honesty and integrity.”
Higdon and Tofano also said they will replace the signs that have been stolen.