Courthouse campaign signs inflame already tense election season

Posted at 8:01 PM, Oct 11, 2020

With early voting beginning Tuesday, candidates throughout the Coastal Bend are gearing up for a contentious election.

Around the Nueces County Courthouse — preparations are being met with frustration and accusations of unfairness from members of both Republican and Democratic parties.

Late Friday night, Nueces County Republican Party Chairman Jim Kaelin shared a photo of several campaign signs lining the front of a courthouse parking lot — all of which were signs supporting Democrats.

He suggested County Judge Barbara Canales had given Democratic candidates an advantage, and he voiced frustration that Republicans never received an official notification.

State Republican Executive Committee member Carmen Calderone echoed Kaelin’s frustration that no Republican candidates he knew were notified.

“Even with early voting, it’s usually the night before, is when candidates go out and put their signs up,” he said. “The (Nueces County) Republican Party — their executive director — got an email around 8:13 p.m., but that was after all the other signs were already put up at those locations.”

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales issued a statement, citing that in 2010, the Nueces County Commissioners’ Court adopted a rule allowing candidates to place campaign signs at county-owned buildings that are early-voting locations — including the courthouse.

“For the past decade, Judge Loyd Neal implemented the rule by allowing campaign signs to be placed beginning on the Friday before early voting, 5 p.m.,” the statement said. “Of course, the candidates are required to know and adhere to all election rules — including Texas law and local practices.

“The Commissioners’ staff implemented the rule — as staff has done for years. I have been informed that some candidates from both parties — and non-partisan candidates — were not aware of this long-standing custom and practice.

“As a courtesy, the Commissioners’ administrator did inform leadership from both parties — although the parties’ leadership should know the longstanding rule. I’ve encouraged all interested persons to better communicate on all issues — especially given everyone’s heightened sensitivity with election issues.”

An added wrinkle to the fabric of this year’s factious election was the removal of several Democratic and Libertarian signs posted east of the courthouse.

Linda Figueroa, a campaign manager for Nueces County District Attorney incumbent Mark Gonzalez,took photos of numerous downed signs Saturday night.

She said it was upsetting to see that, while Republicans’ signs in the area stood tall.

“They took the Biden, Hinojosa, Benavides — everybody was down,” she said. “They just took everybody down.”

Figueroa said she heard who had taken down the signs, but KRIS 6 News has not yet validated those claims.

A total of 13 campaign signs were found behind a shrub east of the courthouse. The majority of them — nine — belonged to Corpus Christi District 5 Councilman Gil Hernandez. Two belonged to Democrat Deborah Rios, who is running for 347th District Court judge, and another two signs were for Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen.