Blockin' out the scenery

It looks like most of the campaign signs are up. Allan Louden, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University and a specialist in political advertising, told the Herald earlier this week ("Sign Language: Carefully chosen words on a campaign placard could spell victory, or not, on Election Day" October 04, 2005):

The right sign, designed the right way, with just the right information, could mean the difference between a vote won or a vote lost, especially among folks who head to the polls unsure of whom to vote for.

In a close race, a couple of those votes could define the margin between victory and defeat.

Louden also says signs with a one-color background convey a candidate who is "solid, substantive and serious." Locally, that would include Mark Kleinschmidt, Alex Zaffron and Laurin Easthom.

White signs often fade into the background when placed among several signs, according to Louden. Bad news for Ed Harrison, Randee Haven-O'Donnell and Jason Baker. I would imagine that something distinctive about the sign would overcome the disadvantage of white thereby favoring Mark Chilton and Catherine DeVine.

The standout this year has to be Katrina Ryan's round signs. Clearly, she's telling voters she's someone who thinks outside the rectangle. This bold move will probably win her a few votes as Louden indicates.

Mark Chilton's hand-painted signs are similar in theme to those he used in his first town council run in 1991. They convey a low-budget, grassroots, and hands-on campaign.

The cursive C on Catherine DeVine's signs indicates a candidate with some flair. That flair seems to be missing otherwise in her campaign (see, for example, her comment on another thread).

Randee Haven-O'Donnell has the curse of a name so long it requires a smaller font. The irony may be that, as passersby struggle to read her signs, they may remember them better than others.

In Chapel Hill, Laurin Easthom's signs, though nicely designed, score big primarily because they were the only ones up for 10 days or so.

Lastly, I have to say that when I saw the bland green on a white background of Ed Harrison's signs, it evoked my sense of his posture on the town council: a weak assertion of green over a flag of surrender.



Yes. Dan - the bottom line purpose of signs is to get name recognition - readable and out there at a minimum.

I don't know why people buy signs if they don't put them up early.

Durham has a primary but they had several candidates putting signs up the first possible day. (including Best who had it up before on private property)

The hard part in CH is saying "I'm green too" but with the knowledge that about half the signs will be green - unless you have something like the Ward Fern the color isn't enough in CH.

The single biggest thing about Ed's signs that I find puzzling is it is almost impossible to read the "re-elect" part of the sign.

Usually, incumbents who do a good job WANT people to see the "Re-Elect" part of it.. I little puzzling.

I'm Guessing Mark's last name is so long it almost forces a limit on what can be conveyed by signage.

I neglected to mention that Jason Baker's sign has a tree.

The cursive C on my sign is my signature. Economy of words is another sort of signature. "Advisory boards receive no funding" was my short response to John Herrera's vision of a new Community Outreach Advisory Board. I'd happily jump on that bus as Board liaison, but wish first to strengthen Carrboro's existing advisory boards. Advisory boards receive no funding except for staff support, which I value highly.

Suppose there was a candidate whom I support, but I think his/her signs are crap. Could I legally make my own, better sign and post in my front yard?

Oh, No--- Mark's are Ersatz (look it up) 'hand painted' signs: In fact, they are largely computer-generated and designed to elicit themes, with 'flowers' and 'creek beds' embedded in the cyber-graphics. The wonder of the Mac.


Thanks, Alex. I had ocurred to me that those images looked a bit crisp - my mistake.

Another interesting point on Mark's signs is their unconventional size.

Alex' signs downtown have holders attached for flyers. I grabbed one hoping it was a $2 coupon for Great Cuts but no such luck.

Mark Chilton and I painted his signs with help from his sons and a few other friends. We are definitely not Macintoshes.

Ersatz: Being an imitation or a substitute, usually an inferior one; artificial: ex: ersatz coffee made mostly of chicory.

What are you saying Alex?

What, no analysis of Will R's signs?


I ran into Will at the Bolin Creek Festival. He says his signs are in a delivery truck somewhere and expected tomorrow.

My signs were done locally by .

interesting, my html didn't take right - it's

Really? Well, shut mah mouth an' call me cornpone! What kinda brush didja use to get that font?


My spiffy red signs are now up.
A word to new canidates--take your signs down the night before Holloween and put them back the day after-lots of signs -and money -are lost during those 2 days

Another note...the sign vandals are already out. We've had to replace 2 stakes that have been snapped in 2. And they're 1X2s.

If anyone needs wire sign stands I got an email from someone with 1500 of them for sale. He didn't give me any details. Email for more info.

I have a theory that will probably never be tested that way too much money is spent on signs thinking that they have more power than they do.

Joyce Brown won hugely with a relatively small number of hand-painted signs and less than $500 spent in the last race she ran. I think there is a tendency for candidates and their supporters to think that hammering in a few more signs is really making a difference. I think it is more likely that thoughtful, digestible stands on the challenging issues of the day are the overwhelming reason why people vote the way they do in the non-partisan elections. It's worth noting that the turnouts for local non-partisan elections are relatively low and the voters fall mainly in the informed part of the spectrum (or they have gotten advice from someone who is informed).

I doubt many candidates will opt to test my theory. There is so much satisfaction to be gained by putting up all those signs and seeing your name all over town. Plus everybody does it and who wants to be the one who doesn't because maybe they are crucial. At any rate, the conventional wisdom on campaigning says that you should do it and I thnk all we really know is that it is good for the graphic design & printing businesses. And it means having to raise more & more money.

A hot tip that I know to be true - having people at the polls representing a candidate always yields more votes. My guesstimate is that at least ten votes per polling place if staffed all day.

I think this is another one of those odd political truths that have signs will not in and of itself make a deifference BUT not having signs can hurt.
BTW mine are three elections old-they seem to work!

Mark, it's amazing how much you can spend on ephemeral devices like signs, brochures and postcards during a campaign.
I wanted to run a "signless" campaign but the unanimous consensus of the folk I polled was "no signs, no win".

I'm in this to win, so I joined up with the sign club.

BTW, I've offered to clean up candidate signs posted near mine the week after the Nov. 8th election. Candidates, you have my email, just drop me a line if you want to take me up on the offer.

Look for my signs to start springing up like daisies soon.

At 85 cents per, the metal H-frames were a great investment. They're light and easy to plant. Wooden stakes are more politically correct, but I'm too fond of my opposable thumb to aim a sledge hammer at it.

But, at closer to 25 cents per, the wooden stakes are letting me run my campaign on a much lower amount of money. One of the keys on cutting money out of politics, which has always been a goal of mine, is to cut the amount of spending. Besides that, I can recycle them to my mom's tomato garden for years to come.

I might use a couple of the metal ones eventually, as I have a few left over from the many other campaigns I've worked. But I'm not going to be buying new ones.

anyone seen Ed's campaign contributors. By my informal counting Mark K. and Laurin E. lead in the newspaper letter to editor race and to some extent I think this reflects support and perhaps financial contributions.

Is this site going to do the campaign contribution breakdown?

Until well into the 1980s, there was a "gentleman's agreement" that there were NO campaign signs in Chapel Hill for local candidates. I rmember in my first campaign being told that "no one did that". Thus no arms race.

Given that campaign signs are now the norm, I've always thought that the MOST effective signs were the ones in private citizens yards -- indicating that a neighbor supported candidate X. Signs placed every 50 feet on a business thorouhgfare merely indicated that the candidate had a hammer, or a friend with a hammer.

Just my 2 cents.


As I've been riding around town the past week or so, I find myself wondering who lives in houses with campaign signs and what issues drive the families support for that individual candidate. So I agree with you about the effectiveness of yard signs.

from today's DTH:
Yard signs don't come cheap, though there are a few ways around printers' costs.

Council candidate Jason Baker bought sign stakes at Lowe's, and Bill Thorpe, another council candidate, got his stakes from Edith Wiggins, the town's departing mayor pro tem.

Helena, I was going to do a campaign $$$ breakdown before I decided to run.

Ethan, you have a First Amendment right to put up a sign as long as it follows the Town's sign ordinances. For your area, probably 4 sq./ft. is the limit.

Gerry and Terri, I think you need a blend of locations. The reason they go up at intersections is all the idling traffic. Putting 10 in the median from Homestead to Weaver Dairy would seem counter-productive but time will tell.

Finally, at $2-4 bucks a pop (unless you're getting in-kind stake support like Bill) is quite an investment. While the stakes might've seem to be a cheap way to go, I was pounding Jason's, Ed's and Mark's signs back in after they popped out of the wet ground while not one metal sign was down. I feel the roughly 30 cents per frame I spent was worth the investment.

The wire frames that they gave me with my signs were too low to the ground to achieve the effect we were looking for. The tomato stakes that Mark C. and Alex used were too weak to hold up the large sign through a strong wind, so We ponied up and bought 4 ft. 1x2's at Fitch ( who even cut them for us) at $.27 a foot.

That's for the help Will.

I think the gentleperson's agreement to help with sign maintenance is still the norm. By the way, I propped up an Eastham sign yesterday. They're pretty big. Laurin's, Bill's and Jean Hamilton's act like ship's sails and often twist and bend in the wind.

The very best thing about wooden stakes, I think, is that they survive for service in multiple races and there's always someone willing to go around and pick them up for you. People even try to corner the market on the stakes as if they were a commodity. After the polls closed on election night four years ago, I drove around looking for my signs and they had already been pulled up by stake harvesters. . I think there were only 2 candidates that year who used wires -- Larry and D.R, and I continued to see their signs up for months after the election.

This thread is the first time I've heard of re-use of the wires. Interesting...

In Ann Arbor no one uses stakes- I'd never even heard of them until I came to UNC. On every election night I go out at 4 AM and pick up every single candidate's wires to stockpile for future School Board campaigns I will run- I have almost 1,000 in my garage. It might seem ridiculous but it's saved my candidates a lot of money.

I have used the same David Price yard sign in my front yard for 12 years. Election night I store it in my garage for the next election cycle.

Generally, I agree with Gerry.

Unless Chapel hill has changed its practice, Public works picks up all the roadside signs fairly early after the polls have closed. in Carrboro, I retrieved all Diana's signs the next morning four years ago.

Shirley Marshall

Getting up at 4 am and 'collecting' people's wires for personal use? Is it legal?
It's a crime to tamper with candidates' signs in the right of way (or at least that is what I would gather from the Brown/Newton court scene last election).
Once the polls close, do candidates no longer have ownership of their signs? How does it work?

I believe that the candidates and their volunteers should have a reasonable opportunity, like at least a couple of days, to get their own stakes/wires back.

In 2001, a couple of people called me the weekend following election day to tell me they had a lot of my signs. I thanked them for their help but told them to donate to other candidates.

Two quick 1991 stories to punctuate Gerry Cohen's opinion:

One evening as I was driving a sign stake in the ground near the
S. Columbia St on ramp off the bypass, I started laughing to
myself that this election will turn on who can drive the
straightest stake into the ground -- no doubt a valuable skill
for a politician. I was using an old Craftsman, 20-ounce, straight claw hammer, that certainly helped my aim.

In a drunken stupor one late Saturday night, a UNC student
who lived in Carrboro stole one of my signs in plain view of
a Chapel Hill Policeman -- not the brightest move. The
policeman arrested him. He said that he had no political
motivation, he just wanted the sign for his apartment, I
have no idea why.
I had to call then DA Carl Fox to ask him not to prosecute the
student. Ken Broun and I had a good laugh over it.

Yes, a sign in a Carrboro apartment would not have done Joe C any good, now if the sign had been in a Chapel Hill apartment ...

A sign tip that many may know - don't staple the sign to the stake and then drive it in because the staples loosen up under the hammering stress. Drive in the stake & then staple the sign on.

I think that Orange County Recycling should set up a table saw out at the clean construction wood area and mass produce stakes for the candidates (and our gardens for that matter). It would be a great use of the discarded wood, at least as good as chipping it up for mulch.

Before this thread dies, let me bore everyone with my thoughts about the different signs I see.

First, Laurin has done the best job with signs. Her signs are simple, tasteful, readable, and everywhere; extra points for the perfect color.
Next, Ryan's signs are serious with a touch of fun and perk, and they are well placed. Amazingly, I can even read the web address when I'm stopped at an intersection.
Third, Danner and Hamilton signs stand out equally. I hate Hamilton's narrow, bold font; it offends my artistic sensibilities. As I approach her signs I expect to read ‘The Terminator' or something aggressive. I suppose font choices are limited when your name is long.
It occurs to me that Eastholm, Ryan, Danner, and Hamilton may have invested more money in signs than most. Their signs do stand out. It will be interesting to see if they get a return on their signs.

In a different category, my favorite sign is Marshall's. (I haven't seen Foy's or Hemminger's either; I like theirs too.)

I've also decided that among the green signs, no one found quite the right color green: too dark, too yellow, too green…
Will's signs remind me of ‘The Story of Ferdinand'. (Will is doing a great job of convincing me that he really is Ferdinand and that he has been all along--- it was the bumble bee he sat on that gave me the wrong impression!)
Kleinschmidt's signs remind me that I need glasses. Approaching one of his signs feels like an appointment with the eye doctor--- again, the long last name. At least Kleinschmidt's font choice and size doesn't convey aggression.

Gist was the only one brave enough to go where red may take a suspicious and paranoid mind. Her signs are old. Red used to mean communist; now it means republican. Who knows what the color red conveys anymore. I personally wouldn't risk using red.

Gist's and Zaffron's signs are similar. Both candidates always have a lot to say--- as do their signs. Their signs aren't bad, just a bit cluttered.
Raymond's and Chilton's signs are very ‘rainbow'. They leave me thinking, ‘Hmmm… in the clouds… what about reality?'

Randee, bless her, an impossible name on a small white sign. I like her leaf.
In general, the signs with the all white background just don't convey power. These signs don't jump out, even though they may be lovely once you see them.

And then there is the yellow school bus Stuckey sign--- a reminder of our ‘lackluster' school board race. You know, Ruby, we can stir up some school board controversy any time you want!


I'm glad you like my signs. Alas, travesty!: the time for sign placement decisions, stake-driving and gratuitous advertising is upon this most reluctant and private of candidates. It is with great sadness that I must disappoint you and take my place alongside others in this ghoulish practice of raw self-exposition.

I have struggled to find ways of avoiding this lurid practice. But I have been assured that no signs means no elected office by people I tend to trust.

I am resigned to this ignominy.


Here's a tip. The signs at Estes Dr. Ext. and N. Greensboro St. constantly disappear. Earlier today almost every Carrboro and School Board candidate had a sign there. Tonight, only 2 Chilton and 2 Ryan signs remain.

Also, I saw hard-working Katrina scooting down North Greensboro in the dark. I felt overcome by a wave of affection for her. Katrina, please get a helmet and some lights. This isn't worth losing life or limb over.

Hard working Katrina is back from door to door campaigning in Cates Farm. Thanks for your concern, Mary. I actually ordered a headlamp for the segway, but it hasn't come yet. I try to get back to the apartment before it gets dark, but that seriously cuts into my door to door time.

My $.02 on signs-

A good, well placed, sign may very well get a 3rd or a 4th vote. Most people just don't pay enough attention to have strong opinions about 3 or 4 candidates. In Chapel Hill, ie: they may know Mark, and have read Laurin's column and liked it, but don't really know much about the other candidates. After that, people are looking for two more names to choose. That's where signs, having the polls manned on election day and segways fall in. Having a short, easy to remember, name helps too. Those factors would favor Jason and Will for the third and fourth votes.

What is interesting as you drive( or scoot) around town is where each candidate perceives their "turf" is. As you go north in Carrboro, for example, Alex, John, and David have no signs at all.

A 'sign' of the times---discussion of fonts, colors, and type of stakes vs. issues. Can't decide whether to vote on signs or coffee preference. Oops, forgot I can't vote.....except for school board which no one seems to care about.

BTW, there was a tea shop on Franklin St all the way back in the 70s. There was also a lovely tea shop in at the Daniel Boone Mall in Hillsborough in the late 70s/early 80s. Much more civilized than coffee......

Good night Terri!

Hmmmm a communist or a republican? I guess after 16 years I've most likely been called both at least once.
My first signs were white on red and I liked them because they can be seen. I stayed with that the first time I ordered re-election signs.The last time I ran I got some new signs and they messed up my order-spelled Jacquelyn "Jacquline" I used them anyway because I needed to. But the printers sent me another order for free-I found that box when I moved and that's mainly what I'm using this time,saved al lot of money.
I like the bold colors

I had a funny experience with a campaign sign in 1988 when I was volunteering for the Jesse jackson campaign. I was poll-watching at the church on Rosemary St. near Henderson. Also there was this spacey young couple who could have been mistaken for Deadheads. They were volunteering for Pat Robertson and had planted one of his signs with the rest of the signs right in front of where we were sitting.

I chatted small-talk with them a little and then they took off to get some lunch. While they were gone, their Robertson sign blew over. Now I quite likely would have replanted most candidate's signs, regardless of political persuasion, just out of common respect for the democratic process. But I just could not bring myself to lift that Pat Robertson sign.

The dingy kids came back, saw the sign, and were shocked that I - who they had just earlier been having a friendly conversation with - had not replanted their sign. When they asked me why, I thought about it for a second and replied, "Well, I just figured it was an act of God."

Quick note for the Stuckey, Danner, Hamilton and Kleinschmidt campaigns. Your signs, for some reason, were removed from the SW corner of Umpstead/MLK - the corner with UNC's Kron building. They're stacked on the old bus shelter foundation.


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