Bonfire of the Politcal Vanities

Maryland’s September primaries are over, the polls have closed, and — for the most part — the results have been determined. For most winners, the looming general election — where the stakes are all or nothing — leave little time to celebrate. For the losers, there’s plenty of time to rue and wish Maryland had enacted late, rather than early, voting. Plenty of time to pick up — and pack up? — all the signs that proclaimed their hopes and ambitions.

“There’s a guy who uses them to build siding on chicken houses down on the Eastern Shore,” says 63-year-old Tom Redmond, who ran as a Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Council in District 3. Redmond says he’ll probably donate his pile of campaign signs to that purpose.

Other candidates aren’t ready to give up their aspirations. In four more years, they imagine, their signs will be good as new — and twice as cheap.

“I’m saving my signs,” says small-business owner Gary Middlebrooks, whose campaign for Anne Arundel County Council in District Two was his first time running for a paid office. “In case I get the bug to try again.”

Also in that camp is perennial Anne Arundel candidate Tom Angelis. In this election, running to represent District 33B in the House of Delegates, Angelis recycled the signs he’d used in his 2006 primary campaign for county executive. He trimmed off the office and left the name and his red apple logo.

“I threw away some signs that were dirty and couldn’t be easily cleaned,” says Angelis. “But I kept probably 40 to 50 percent of them to use if I run again. Re-using the signs saves an inordinate amount of money.”

According to county zoning code, signs can be positioned up to 60 days before an election and must be removed within seven days after. They are allowed on private property with permission of the property owner, but cannot obstruct roads, walkways or right of ways.

George Law was still holding out hope as provisional ballots were counted in his race for delegate in Anne Arundel County’s District 32. At press time he was fourth among five candidates in a race where the top three move on to the general election. Once the results are official, he says he will remove — or not — his more than 250 signs.

“I ran four years ago and used some of those same signs this time,” says the 67-year-old Law, who has run for office in Maryland for three different parties throughout his political career. “I’ll save everything I’ve used because most likely I’ll use them again.”

Others, with extra room in their garages or attics — or perhaps a future need for kindling — also plan to hold on to the signs.

“I will keep them because I think they’re historical,” says Perry Ealim, who lost his race for Anne Arundel County Council in District Three. “They were far and few between. I didn’t want to spend a lot on signs. Issues should be the most important thing, not making it a popularity contest with who has the bigger and better signs.”

Still other candidates are ready to put the election — and its paraphernalia — behind them.

“My signs were taken to a dump and discarded, and the wood was recycled with a lumber mill,” says 36-year-old Del. James King, who hoped to move up to senator in District 33. “Now it’s time to move on and open a new chapter in my life.”