As perennial as orange leaves, crisp apples and pumpkin spice latte, political signs have sprung up around Middletown in advance of the election in November.
Do these signs have a message beyond the obvious, "vote for?"
Here's my interpretation.
The signs match Sandra's personality, larger than life, and friendly. Russo-Driska began posting her signs around town just after Labor Day, and they have been the dominant image of this election season. As ubiquitous as Dunkin' Donuts, it's hard to turn a corner without seeing a reminder to "Elect Sandra." She's the first face you see coming off Route 9 onto Main Street, and you may see her before that if you happen to be following one of the buses that feature her face.
Incumbent Democratic council member Tom Serra has been at this for awhile. He's not stranger to sign placement, or sign economy.
|The original "Franken-sign"|
grafted bits of campaign signs from his brother Joe's old campaign. With a bit of paint, and even a smaller amount of artistry, Tom has made the signs his own. This year, some of those very signs have re-appeared, but along with them are some additional quaint hand-painted signs that bear the same mark of homespun artistry. The re-use of signs may indicate that Serra is as he says, an efficient and careful steward of funds, and maybe even an environmentalist in his quest to recycle.
Newer Serra signs, commercially produced, have been altered by lopping off the bottom of the sign, so as to remove information with which Serra is obviously uncomfortable.
It's recent City Hall lore that Serra, the majority leader on the Common Council, has been feuding with Mayor Dan Drew. Serra, and his followers, who have been called "Serra-crats" are considered to be the old-school movers and shakers of the town's Democratic party. Serra, who once was considered a Drew ally, has bristled at the arrival of several young turks, who have been accused of using public office in Middletown as a steppingstone to a political career beyond the city.
What's a little more surprising is that incumbent Council member Mary Bartolotta has also altered her signs in the same way. These signs, on the cutting edge, seem to indicate a fracture in the party along old-school politics vs. new, and the perception of inequality along gender lines.
Hope Kasper, who was bounced from the endorsed, Democratic ticket, is now running as a write-in candidate. Her signs are among those to be altered to form a shorter profile. At least her name is spelled correctly, which is essential knowledge for anyone who plans to write in her name on the ballot.
First-time Council candidate Democrat Gene Nocera has very high recognition value in town with his years in public education as teacher and administrator. When he ran for the Board of Education, he was the highest vote-getter of all candidates for all seats. In the recent Democratic primary, he also came out on top, but he still sees the value of signs. In fact, Nocera may have had more requests for lawn signs then he actually had signs to fill those requests.
So it appears that for some supporters, he relied on using mis-printed versions of his sign that have been hand-corrected. These signs apparently were delivered with his name spelled "Norcera." They've been altered with blue tape to remove the errant "r" and now read "No cera" which, loosely translated from the Italian, means "no wax." Wax or no, Nocera's grammatical reputation continues to shine in the correct version of his sign which can be found across town. Nocera indicated that the misspelled sign is courtesy of the Vinci Group, a paid professional political consultancy being used by local Democrats, who also spelled Carl Chisem's name wrong on his campaign signs. They've apparently offered profuse apologies, but very little explanation as to why the would spell the most important words on a sign wrong.
|Sandy's, the neutral ground survivor.|
This year, the rule seems not to be strictly enforced, with signs appearing curbside throughout the city, though in at least one "neutral" location in town, a traffic triangle on Ridge Road, political signs have been stripped an all that remains is a subtle advertisement for a local day care center.
In my pursuit of signs across town, I came across at least one that warmed my heart for an election that will take place next year.
But, all things being equal, I may give my vote to Stump Genie, if I can figure out with which party he's associated.