The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Illegal election signs vex candidates for District 9 Alaska House seat

Proliferation of sandwich board and other roadside ads prompts DOT into action

 

August 15, 2018

Courtesy photo

ADOT is cracking down on illegal campaign signs along Alaska highways – and candidates are unhappy about it.

Illegal campaign signs are giving District 9 candidates the blues.

On July 18, the Valdez Star published an article on campaign signs - and their legality - along Alaska's highways. A recent road trip to Anchorage last week confirmed that all Republican candidates for House District 9 were breaking public ballot initiatives from 1998 - and the Federal Highway Beautification Act of 1965 - which make it illegal to place campaign signs within 660 feet of the highway.

Phone calls were placed to all candidates for House District 9 last Friday to discuss their signs.

Discussions with the Republican candidates led to the understanding that each knew they had a sign or signs in violation of the law.

"I don't think all of my signs are following it to the T at this moment," said incumbent Alaska House candidate George Rauscher.

His competition bemoaned the fact that these signs are sometime put up by volunteers who may not know the law and that sometimes the signs simply disappear.

"Candidates do not know where they (signs) will necessarily end up," said challenger Pam Goode, who ran against Rauscher in 2016 as a Constitution Party Candidate. "They get flagged and removed."

Former house representative Jim Colver is hoping to upset Rauscher in the 2016 Republican primary and regain the seat he lost to Rauscher in 2016.

"The law is not enforced even for businesses," Colver said.

One interesting outcome of the candidates not following the state and federal laws set for political advertising is that it led to some signs being reported as stolen but candidates were unsure if they were stolen or removed after contacting the Department of Transportation.

Goode, who reported receiving many comments for the beauty of her signs, said

"Our signs get stolen. These are expensive signs. When we contact the Department of Transportation at times they are unable to tell us if the sign was removed by them," Goode said. "Candidates need to get notified prior to removal all of the time."

Colver also reported something similar to Goode when discussing illegal campaign signs.

"We get our signs vandalized and ripped down all of the time," he said.

The Department of Transportation has sent letters notifying candidates in the spring during election years of the laws concerning the placement of political signs along the highway. This year was no different according to DOT.

However, what has been different this year is that DOT has started to crackdown on signs being placed along the highway.

The sweep began in Anchorage.

"The sweep was motivated by a proliferation of illegal signs on State roads, despite State and Federal laws against outdoor advertising in Alaska," Sharon McCarthy, a DOT spokesperson, told the Anchorage Daily news.

"We just got to a tipping point where we really had to let the candidates know we would be going out there."

The laws have had little enforcement in previous election cycles and the timing of Governor Walker's re-election has resulted in candidates pointing fingers at the Governor.

Some have accused the administration of playing politics with an unprecedented and unfair enforcement because none of Walker's signs were removed and inventoried by the state during the Anchorage sweep.

Critics say that Walker was losing the sign war, and candidate Mike Dunleavy was winning it. Then when Mark Begich jumped into the race as a Democrat and started putting up signs, that's when the crackdown came.

Valdez Star photo

Mobile political ads, such as this one towed by a trailer, are banned from parking on highways by Alaska law.

Walker's campaign told the ADN that they reacted quickly when notified that campaign signs would be taken down and the fact that the governor's family includes three lawyers may account for the fact his campaign was quick to bring the signs into compliance.

Goode believes that when the State Legislature reconvenes, the issue of campaign signs needs to be discussed.

"There needs to be a gentlemen's agreement amongst the parties," Colver said.

The lone Democrat running for District House 9, Bill Johnson, had a different take on the situation.

"I do think it is ironic that there are many illegal signs when they are talking about crime and tightening up the laws," Johnson said. "A good idea would be to follow the law."

 

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