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Durham campaign season is open today

Durham has city elections coming up this fall, and today is opening day for the campaign season – 45 days in advance of the early-voting start in the Oct. 8 municipal primary.

Incumbent Mayor Bill Bell and his two challengers, Michael Valentine and Sylvester Williams; and the four candidates for the Ward 2 seat – Omar Beasley, Eddie Davis, Franklin Hanes and Del Mattioli – are on the primary ballot. The two remaining candidates in each race face off in the Nov. 5 general election.

Don Moffitt and Pam Karriker are the only candidates in Ward 3 and won’t be on a ballot until the general election; their signs can’t go up until Sept. 2. Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 1 incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden is unopposed for re-election.

Campaign-sign dates caused some confusion in 2012, when some campaigners – notably state Senate candidate Kerry Sutton – thought their opponents were jumping the gun.

Much of Durham’s political community assumed the 45-day rule meant 45 days before election day. When early voting was instituted, though, City-County Planning Director Steve Medlin, whose department is in charge of Durham sign rules, decided that the opening of early voting is when an election starts.

Nothing requires Medlin or anyone else to make announcements about sign restrictions; it’s the candidates’ responsibility to ask if they don’t know the rules. The planning department’s contact information comes in the information packet every candidate gets when she or he files to run for office.

This year, though, the planning department is sending candidates a formal notice – just in case they didn’t read the information they were given.

For rule on campaign signs, you have to ask

The next Election Day is more than seven weeks away, but candidates' campaign signs have proliferated all along Durham's streets these past few days.

If it seems a little early for that kind of thing, times have changed. So have Durham's election rules, and some in the political community are miffed that not everybody got the word.

"This is about fairness. No more, no less," said George Lawrence, campaign chairman for state Senate candidate Kerry Sutton, one who didn't get it, while her opponent is, current City Councilman Mike Woodard, is one who did.

Because he, like some other candidates, asked for it. It's like this –

Councilman stands up vs. campaign pollution

One Durham politician at least has taken a stand on visual litter ­­-- campaign signs, that is.

Rob Griffin with Scientific Properties wrote the mayor and council members to complain about candidates' signs in the public right-of-way near his firm's Venable Center at Pettigrew and Roxboro streets. Griffin said the signs' placement suggested that Scientific Properties is supporting those candidates, which is not the case: “We, as a company, remain neutral.”

Councilman Eugene Brown answered: “There is legally no reason why we should allow political signs, including mine, to visually pollute our city. … There is a propensity for such signs to linger far after the election is over, especially by those candidates who lost. As a result, the public could be forced to live with such a nuisance for months. Denver [Colo., where Brown's twin brother is a city councilman] only allows home owners to display political signs, hence the term, yard sign. In my judgment, this demonstrates real grass root support and not just the ability of a candidate to flood our streets, landscapes and parks with personal advertisements. Here's to a cleaner environment! Now all we have to do is convince my colleagues of the folly of the status quo.”

Brown, of course, is not up for re-election this year.

Confessions of an election sign thief

What is it with all these people stealing election signs?

In Minnesota, a college professor is quite proud of himself for relieving a roadway of several McCain-Palin election signs. He writes on the blog Huffington Post of this act of civil disobedience, saying it was "one of the single-most exhilirating and empowering political acts I have ever done."

It's also a crime, he acknowledges, one that has grabbed the attention of a local sheriff. 

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