The June primary is still more than four months away, and already, campaign signs the size of small billboards have been showing up in South County.
Normally, outdoor signs are prohibited this early in the campaign. But because these signs are mobile — they’re on the sides of U-Haul trailers towed to various, high-profile locations — they don’t violate local ordinances.
So what’s the problem?
If you support the candidates the signs are promoting — the particular sign we saw was for 4th District Supervisor candidate Lynn Compton — then you might not see this as a problem at all, but rather, as a savvy campaign strategy. If you don’t, well, then you’d be more inclined to see it as the cynical exploitation of a loophole.
We aren’t going to get into condemning or condoning Compton, or any other candidates who use this method to get their name out in the public eye as soon as possible. But we do have some concerns about such high-profile advertising this early in the campaign.
This movie-marquee type of marketing leads to voter fatigue and ups the ante in terms of campaign costs, because, unfortunately, political campaigns have become like arms races. As soon as one candidate embarks on a certain type of advertising, their opponents often fear they’ll be at a disadvantage if they don’t follow suit.
Before we know it, we could see a parade of U-Hauls bearing campaign signs parked at major intersections, five, six, even seven months before Election Day. What an eyesore!
We appeal to the candidates: How about giving us voters a break? Some of us are still struggling to get our Christmas ornaments stowed away before Super Bowl. Our brains aren’t ready to process campaign advertising quite yet.
So, how about holding off on the mobile signs until at least 90 days before the election, which is the earliest date that outdoor political signs are allowed to be displayed under state rules? Some cities have an even stricter limit of 60 days.
And while it may be too late for the current election cycle, we urge local jurisdictions to review their ordinances and policies on temporary campaign signs, and to make any restrictions on size, timing, etc., apply to large “roving” political signs, as well as to stationary ones.