MAPLETON, Maine — Troy Haines, a Mapleton resident running for state representative in District 7 in Aroostook County, ordered 250 political signs to be printed so he could post them throughout his campaign territory. In the past two weeks, roughly 135 of them have been stolen.
“It is a shame that politics in this state has decelerated to this level,” the Democrat said Monday. “I am a publicly funded candidate, so it is unfortunate that someone takes it upon themselves to steal my signs.”
Haines hopes to represent Mapleton, Castle Hill, Chapman, Washburn, Wade, Oxbow, Masardis, Monticello, Littleton, Central Aroostook Township and parts of Presque Isle in the Legislature in January.
He said his signs were stolen during separate incidents in Presque Isle and Mapleton.
While campaigning last week, his car broke down and was towed to a repair shop. Approximately 125 signs were stolen out of his car while it was parked outside the Presque Isle shop, according to Haines. Police have not identified the culprit and the signs have not been recovered, he said.
Then early Monday morning, Haines said that his father called to tell him that other campaign signs had been taken from locations in Mapleton. Haines said he first thought the wind might have blown the signs down, but the 10 signs were later found in a heap on his lawn.
“I was irate,” he acknowledged. “I called the police.”
The Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department investigated and located the 18-year-old culprit, who apparently was caught on video surveillance with the signs, Haines said. Haines declined to press charges, however, and the Bangor Daily News is not identifying the 18-year-old because charges were not filed.
“I want to rise above this and move on, but I want to let people know that this is going on,” Haines said. “I have heard from seven or eight other candidates, all Democrats, who have had their signs stolen.”
Haines said the person who took his 10 signs from Mapleton apologized and put all of the signs back. He said the people who allowed him to put the signs on their lawns have the right to press charges, but he is encouraging them not to.
“I just want to focus on the issues and not on this incident,” he said.
Sgt. Forrest Dudley of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday that law enforcement agencies receive complaints of this nature every year.
“Just as a reminder to all citizens, it is illegal to tamper with or remove any political signs,” Dudley said Tuesday. “In fairness to all candidates, please do not destroy, deface or remove any signs for anyone who may be running for any office.”
In Maine, defacing or disturbing a lawfully placed political sign is a civil violation. A person convicted of the offense faces a $250 fine.
Caribou police Sgt. Paul Vincent said Tuesday that sign tampering and theft hasn’t really been a problem in Caribou this year.
“We always get some complaints, but nothing major,” he said. He added that police sometimes have to remove improperly placed signs, including signs that are placed too close to a polling site.
State law prevents campaign signs from being placed within 250 feet of a polling place. Temporary political signs also cannot be bigger than 4 by 4 feet and cannot be placed in such a way as to create a safety hazard.
Fort Kent Police Chief Kenneth Michaud said he also hasn’t had problems with people stealing political signs in the community, but he has had to pull up improperly placed signs.
Haines isn’t the only candidate dealing with the issue. Several news outlets in southern Maine reported earlier this month that Republican Joe Palmieri, who is running for District 7 in the state Senate, had as many as 100 of his campaign signs torn down or damaged in several places in South Portland.
Haines said he is working on re-establishing his signs in his campaign territory.