The glossy black spray paint of a crudely drawn swastika stands out against the red and white of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s re-election signs, a problem that has become more prevalent this year, according to campaign officials.
The sign stands in contrast with the other, unmarred campaign signs lining the busy Phoenix intersection at 7th Street and McDowell Road.
It is unknown when the swastika was drawn or by whom, but defacing Maricopa County Sherriff candidates’ signs has been a regular occurrence this election year for both Arpaio and his main challenger, former Phoenix police officer Paul Penzone.
The Penzone campaign said 60 percent of the signs its volunteers staked throughout the county have simply disappeared.
Penzone campaign spokeswoman Stacy Pearson said 800 4-by-8-feet signs have gone missing or been destroyed.
“I would like to hope (the signs) are all going to good homes for people who want to support Paul Penzone, but I highly doubt it,” Pearson said. “It has been a problem this year, but we are not going to dedicate our resources to search for the signs.”
Likewise, Arpaio’s campaign is facing similar issues with signs disappearing or being destroyed.
The Sheriff’s campaign said more than 1,200 signs have been burned, torn, painted with vulgarity or stolen.
Arpaio issued a $5,000 reward in August to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction for damaging his signs.
He said the $5,000 reward would not come out of taxpayers’ pockets because he has raised more than $8 million for his re-election campaign.
Arpaio campaign manager Chad Willems said the sheriff is furious about the damage to the signs and there are open police investigations into the vandalism.
“I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and we’ve never seen so many (signs) destroyed,” Willems said.
The Arpaio campaign said they doubt Penzone has had that many signs go missing.
“I question the Penzone campaign on those figures,” Willems said.
He added defacing signs only helps Arpaio in his re-election efforts.
“The message from these radicals is a message of hatred,” he said. “It’s backfiring on them.”
Business sophomore Tobi McCann said she does not see the point of destroying candidates’ signs.
“If someone is going to express how they feel about a candidate, they should not do it by vandalizing,” McCann said. “It’s ridiculous that some people believe that would change someone’s vote.”
Defacing a political sign is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to four months in jail, a $700 fine and up to two years probation, according to information from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
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