(Update: Adding comment from Kiely campaign)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With Election Day just three weeks away, the two candidates vying for a seat on the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners say they have seen a number of their campaign signs vandalized or stolen. And they're not the only ones.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Phil Henderson told NewsChannel 21 he noticed some of his campaign signs near 27th Street and Reed Market Road in Bend were missing.
He said some signs in other parts of town were painted with graffiti, often with the letters “G.O.P.,” which he found out to be a slang derogatory term for political candidates.
“In prior elections, people would just black out your name -- now they’re making statements,” Henderson said.
He said although vandalism has always been a prevalent problem during campaign season, he feels like it is more aggressive this year.
“I think it’s the heightened mentality of people just feeling they can vandalize your things or steal your signs like this and not apparently care,” Henderson said.
Challenger Phil Chang said, “Those signs lasted anywhere from 10 days to three weeks before someone had stolen or damaged them.”
He said he has also heard up to 25 reports from friends of signs being stolen from their yards.
Both Chang and Henderson said a lot of the time, effort and money that go into replacing missing signs takes away from other, more positive campaign activities.
“It’s not the way I’d like to be spending my time during this campaign,” Chang said. “I’d like to be talking to voters about important issues that face our county.”
Henderson said, “This has been a problem not just for my campaign but for other campaigns as well. It’s just really pure vandalism and needs to stop.”
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said he has also noticed heightened political tensions this election season, compared to years past.
In an email, he said, “In the strongest terms, I have condemned the violence and criminal activity and call for peaceful protests and elections.”
Knopp said he has heard reports of opponent Eileen Kiely’s signs placed in county right-of-way locations without the necessary county permits.
Jeff Eager, a consultant for Republican Rep. Jack Zika, told NewsChannel 21 some of Zika’s signs are also being replaced with those of his opponent, Emerson Levy.
Eager said Levy also does not have a county-issued permit for her signs.
Zika said most of the sign theft happens in Bend and some places in Redmond. He said he also called Kiely to address the situation and she did not return his call.
Kiely's campaign manager, Kimberly Koops, said Kiely was on the phone when Zika called her and she texted him back the same day, but never heard back.
"As a veteran, Eileen cares deeply about following the law and more importantly, upholding the constitution," Koops told NewsChannel 21.
"Our campaign has a limited number of lawn signs, and due to the incredible number of requests we received from supporters, we have prioritized sign delivery to only those who have requested them," she said. "Thank you for alerting us to the missing signs -- we'll be collecting them to deliver them to our supporters who have made requests."
Zika said in an email, “We started noticing signs being taken about a month ago, but it has accelerated in the last week and a half. Recently, most of my signs have been taken within a couple days of replacing them.”
Henderson said he has filed a police report and is offering a $500 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest of the people responsible for stealing his signs.
Chang said he has not filed a police report at this time.