By Tony Kukulich
Volunteers for Barb Nash’s political campaign spent all day Thursday, Oct. 13, installing four brand-new, large campaign signs, but by the following Saturday morning two of those large signs and up to 30 smaller lawn signs had been stolen.
Nash is the Democratic candidate for the 124th District seat in the South Carolina House of Representative. Nash is facing incumbent Republican Shannon Erickson in that race.
The lawn signs were mostly pulled from yards in the Beaufort’s Northwest Quadrant where they had been placed with the permission of homeowners.
The two large signs, measuring four by eight feet and valued at more than $250 each, were cut from the posts where they had been mounted. One had been placed in the yard of Nora and Charles Kresch on Bay Street in Beaufort, while the second was placed in the yard of Beaufort County Council Member York Glover’s home on St. Helena Island.
Information from the Kresches gave the Nash campaign some idea when the vandalism might have occurred.
“The Kresch’s came home at 10:30 Friday night, and the sign was still in their yard on Bay Street” Nash said. “They went to bed, and when they got up at 7 a.m., they looked out and the sign was gone.”
Nash, who lives in the Northwest Quadrant, was notified by a neighbor that signs around the neighborhood appeared to have disappeared as well. The timing of their disappearance was less certain.
In a strange twist, the signs didn’t end up in a garbage bin or abandoned in a pile by the side of the road. Instead, all of the signs were set up on the lawn of one of Nash’s campaign volunteers, a teen who lives on Fripp Street in Beaufort.
“I happen to have three high school seniors who work for my campaign,” explained Nash. “(One of them) got up on Saturday the 15th to find that all of my signs – the two big ones and about 30 little ones – were in her front yard. She tells me that she felt kind of threatened, intimidated by who had done this. And the Kresches had somebody come onto their property, too.”
The teen’s parents gathered all of the signs and delivered them to the Democratic Party headquarters in Beaufort.
“We did get the signs back,” Nash added. “Some of the small ones are in pretty bad shape.”
It is illegal in South Carolina to deface, vandalize, tamper with or remove a lawfully placed political campaign sign prior to the election without prior permission of the candidate or party. The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of a fine up to $1,000 and jail time of up to 30 days, or both.
Nash is challenging incumbent Shannon Erickson in the November general election for the second time. The two squared off against one another in 2020 when Erickson defeated Nash handily by earning 63.2% of the vote.
“I’ve had similar issues with signs disappearing,” Erickson told The Island News. “I would encourage all campaigns to give sign volunteers all the local codes and guidelines before they put signs up. I especially condemn interference with the legal placement of any campaign sign. I trust that my supporters would never interfere with another person’s freedom of speech.”
Nash said that all volunteers were advised that interfering with another candidate’s campaign signs is illegal.
This is not the first time that Nash has had problems with her campaign signs. She said that when she ran in 2020, her campaign couldn’t afford the larger signs, but smaller lawn signs were stolen, shot at and hacked with what appeared to be a machete.
“This time I was able to invest in some of these big signs, and it is really disappointing that this type of behavior is going on,” Nash noted. “No one else’s signs have been touched, only mine.”
Both the City of Beaufort Police Department and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the theft of signs had been reported, though both investigations were just getting under way.
Nash reported Tuesday morning that the two large signs had been cleaned up and were once again installed in their original locations. The lawn signs that were recoverable were back in circulation, though some were damaged by repair.
“I want this to be on record,” Nash said. “Some people might not know that you can be fined and/or jailed for doing this. This is behavior that is not acceptable.”
Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.