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Allegations over campaign yard signs in Albemarle County flying from both sides

Elections are still more than two months away, and the fights are turning ugly in Albemarle County.

Allegations are flying from both sides of the aisle, including accusations of vandalism and campaigning on public property — both crimes.

In a race for the Albemarle County School Board, conservative Meg Bryce and her more liberal opponent Allison Spillman both say they have had signs stolen and vandalized.

"Let me be crystal clear: acts of vandalism have absolutely no place in our political discourse, and I wholeheartedly condemn such actions," Spillman posted to Facebook earlier this week. "While my opponent and I have strong disagreements on policy matters, we can certainly find common ground in our shared desire to protect campaign property from damage."

That post included photos of Spillman’s and Bryce’s damaged signs.

Bryce confirmed to The Daily Progress that she was aware of at least two signs vandalized in the past week, as well as several others stolen.

Separately, former Charlottesville Council Member Sena Magill took to Twitter this week, complaining that unnamed campaigns had placed “illegal campaign signs” in Albemarle County. She said online she had spotted them “on public property (medians, stop lights, etc).”

While she originally did not name the candidates behind the signs, Magill told The Daily Progress the campaign material belonged to Bryce as well as Steve Harvey, the Republican running for the 55th District seat in the House of Delegates.

“You’ll see them in front of stop signs and in medians on the 250 Bypass. There’s a big sign at the stop light on 20 South near Monticello High School,” Magill said. “There are lots of political signs on public land, and that’s illegal.”

Magill said she contacted the Albemarle County elections office to voice her concerns.

“Tried to make a complaint about illegal campaign signs in Albemarle county to registrar office,” she posted on Twitter, “they said they stay out of partisan issues and I needed to complain to the campaign. Illegal signs are not partisan.”

“It was something that annoyed me, because I know it’s not supposed to be okay,” she later told The Daily Progress. “I thought to report it to the registrar’s office, and the office was not very helpful.”

A person working at the elections office, who asked not to be named, told The Daily Progress that the office had been contacted about yard signs twice, both times by the same person.

“We told them the proper channel to call is the Virginia Department of Transportation or the police if it’s criminal in nature,” the election worker said. “It’s on public property, but we’re not a partisan entity so it’s not something we can act on anyway. We’re just the facilitator of your vote. Being that it’s not on our property we don’t have any jurisdiction over that.”

Magill said she had not contacted the police or VDOT and was unsure if she would.

“I really don’t want to be in politics anymore,” she said.

Both Bryce and Harvey denied any conscious effort to place their campaign signs on public property.

Bryce told The Daily Progress that her signs can be found “alongside many other campaign signs, including those of my opponent.”

Harvey, who is competing against Democrat Amy Laufer in his race, said that he would confirm that his signs are only in places where his campaign has been given permission to advertise.

“Whenever I am notified of my signs being improperly positioned I move the sign in question ASAP. I have only heard from two people so far this election,” Harvey told The Daily Progress.

Like Spillman, Harvey said he has had signs stolen. By his own count, he said 40 of his signs have been taken from private property to date this campaign season, most from front lawns in Earlysville and Crozet.

Harvey also said that Bryce’s campaign signs have been frequently vandalized.

In a photo he sent to The Daily Progress, a Bryce campaign sign is covered with “Scalia” in blue spray paint, a reference to the candidate’s late father, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Bryce confirmed that two of her signs had been vandalized this week, one on U.S. 29 and one in Crozet, and several others stolen in Crozet.

“The same night that the Crozet sign was vandalized, I also had many signs stolen throughout Crozet (though adjacent campaign signs were left untouched),” Bryce wrote in an email. “I imagine people see that my common sense messaging is resonating with voters, and they want to distract from that.”

Bryce said she has filed a police report.

“I know it’s just part of running as a conservative in Albemarle County, but it is still a sad example of the state of local public discourse,” Harvey said.

Laufer joined Spillman in denouncing the vandalisms and thefts.

"While our campaigns present very different views for the future of our Commonwealth, I’m sure we both agree that vandalism is wrong and has no place in this discourse," she wrote in a statement provided to The Daily Progress. "I understand that people are fired up but this doesn’t help anyone."


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