Last Friday, Salt Lake County Commission GOP candidate Mark Shurtleff was caught pulling down one of his opponent's campaign signs.
Wednesday, Shurtleff called for an investigation into people tearing down campaign signs.If that strikes you as puzzling, you're not the only one.
"He's a guy who did something silly, and now he's trying to justify it," said Mike Reberg, Shurtleff's Democratic opponent.
Shurtleff pulled down the Reberg sign on Union Park Avenue near 7500 South. West Valley resident Allen Hose, who has worked on Democratic campaigns, saw him do it and made a few calls, including to the local police.
Time out for a statement from Shurtleff's campaign manager Ryan Mecham: "When our signs are stolen or destroyed, that constitutes criminal behavior."
You read that right - that was Shurtleff's campaign manager, and prosecutors may oblige him. Sandy city attorney Walter Miller said city prosecutors are considering filing charges against Shurtleff over the incident.
Shurtleff said he did the deed in a fit of pique because he was tired of his signs disappearing and, he says, Reberg signs sprouting up in their place. The same day he pulled down the sign he left a rather energetic voice mail at Reberg's campaign headquarters demanding that Reberg quit taking down his signs.
Reberg flatly denies that he or his campaign workers have taken down any signs.
Shurtleff says the Reberg sign he pulled down was put on a post that formerly supported a Shurtleff sign. For his part, Reberg, who put up the sign himself with permission from the property owner, says the ground was too hard to put in stakes and he just put his sign up on a pole that happened to be there.
"Every single campaign I've ever been in we've always had discussions about signs we lose," Reberg said. "It's frustrating, it's not right, but I'm not going to lose my cool over it. Unfortunately, Mark lost his cool."
Of Reberg's 2,200 signs, he estimates he's lost between 800 and 900. Shurtleff says of his 500 signs he's lost 300.
Reberg's solution to lost signs? "Put up more signs."
It hasn't been a good seven days for Shurtleff. Tuesday he was in a car crash that left him woozy, and after spending much of the day Wednesday in a hospital being subjected to X-rays and CAT scans, he was finally released with the diagnosis of a concussion. He missed his own press conference that evening intended to restore his good name with the public after the sign incident.
As if that wasn't bad enough, as Shurtleff was leaving the hospital he was called on his cellular phone by a reporter questioning him about $1,700 in 1997 property taxes that county records showed he owed on a home he owns on Salt Lake Valley's east side. Turns out he had indeed paid the taxes, albeit six months late - in May 1998 - because of a miscommunication between Shurtleff and the person who sold him the house on contract.
For his part, having so far avoided the hot seat, Reberg can afford to wax philosophical.
"Campaigns are stressful, they're tough, they're hard," he said. "It's almost like a testing period, in a way. Voters look at the way you run a campaign and it's like how you're going to do your job when you're elected."