Campaign sign controversy in Monroe County
It’s simple math.
The country is five months away from the November elections; there are as many as 10 Illinois political candidates for Monroe County registered voters to choose from; and the state is two weeks away from the next fiscal year without any formal budget.
Add those factors together, and people will see the political race heating up faster than an egg on a smoldering sidewalk in the summer time.
Those who saw the Democratic party mobile sign parked a mere 100 feet outside the office of state senate candidate Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) at the edge of the Rural King lot in Waterloo last week can attest that the race is indeed getting hot.
Chad Goldschmidt, the husband of Monroe County Coroner candidate Cassy Diehl Goldschmidt (D-Waterloo), owns the truck that has the mobile sign attached. The sign in Waterloo remained in the parking lot for a few days until Schimpf’s office contacted the property owner to confirm whether the truck could remain there.
Thursday, the landlord for Schimpf’s campaign office visited the site and concluded the truck was on her property, at which point she asked Chad to move the truck elsewhere. He complied, moving the sign to the vacant Michael’s on Market lot just up the street.
Since the sign is a mobile advertisement, there is no ordinance that would allow Waterloo city officials to request he move the truck from Michael’s or any other location in the city.
In addition, a billboard Chad owns featuring the Monroe County Democrats sat at Route 3 just south of Old Route 3, within the county lines. That billboard became a topic of conversation during Monday’s county board meeting at the courthouse because of a sign ordinance.
Under 40-6-12 of the county municipal code, the ordinance states that political campaign signs are not allowed more than 30 days before an election.
“It is unfortunate that the opponents to the Monroe County Democratic organization want to stifle open conversation regarding the upcoming election,” Chad told the Republic-Times. “It appears they are attempting to quiet my right to free speech. I will not, however, let that deter me from continuing to fight for working families, just like the candidates I support.”
Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing, a Republican, gave a statement at the board meeting recognizing the difficulty behind protecting free speech in this case. The sheriff ultimately told the board he felt the county should not remove the Route 3 sign because of the legal implications involved.
“(The sign issue) is unfortunate because I have been backed into a corner in this political game,” Rohlfing said. “In this situation, I can either enforce the ordinance, which could possibly violate the candidates’ freedom of speech who have made the decision to have their signs up. Or I could not enforce the ordinance, which would go against my oath of enforcing our laws and ordinances.”
Monroe County Commissioners Delbert Wittenauer and Terry Liefer suggested the county’s Democratic and Republican chairpersons sit down and develop an agreement on this matter.
The election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 8.