Self Inflicted Injury Exposes both candidate’s demeanor in Supervisor Race

by Placerville Newswire / Oct 25, 2018 / comments

[Cris Alarcon]

Board Of Supervisor member Sue Novasel’s re-election campaign was disrupted by her direct involvement in the removal of opposition campaign signage just before Vote-By-Mail ballots arrived.  Although the removal by the Supervisor does not constitute a “crime” it was extremely bad PR and brought her motives into question at a critical time for any election cycle only to be exploited by her opposition.  In many ways an election is more about public perception than actual facts. By her direct involvement in the removal of campaign signs she has given her opposition the opportunity to call her on the carpet in a very public manner.  By doing so he has exposed his own political leanings in a way he has denied in the past.

In the case of Incumbent Novasel it has exposed that she is thin-skin when it comes to the harsh realites of politics as she labels a relatively mild campaign opposition sign as “hate” speech.  For her challenger it pierces his claim of being a Conservative as he leans on the very Liberal State’s Attorney General as he accuses the County’s DA of being unable to do his job due to fear of having his budget cut by the County’s Supervisors.

The heat of a political campaign is intense and often exposes the weakness in candidates.  This is the power of our system of political contests and benefits the public. Both the incumbent and the challenger exposed more than they may have intended.

All political professionals are taught that the oppositions signs are sacrosanct and a Hands-Off policy is not just applied to the candidates, but also strongly instructed to the campaign’s volunteers.  Our election history is replete with elections lost by front-runners when an impropriety involving anti-candidate signs becomes newsworthy at a critical time during the election cycle. Theft and defacing of campaign signs is a stable of every election.  That is not even newsworthy as it is so common. It is news when the acts are tied to the candidate directly.

When that happens, it is a self-inflicted wound.

This is the position that Supervisor Sue Novasel has put herself into.  As would be expected, her opponent, Kenny Curtzwiler is working hard to use it against her.  In doing so he has also exposed his own weaknesses in some areas.

During an election cycle there are many rules in place that both allow for the candidates for public office to make known to the public their position of pertinent subject matter related to the election, and rules of disclosure relating to who is paying for the message being presented.  In the former a public disclosure is required of who is paying for the message in the form of a “FPPC Number” included on the sign that publicly discloses those paying for the message distribution. Without this discernible number the sign is not legal for public presentation. The exception to this rule is that anyone may make claims related to candidates or election issues with their own money and place it on property they own.

When using the “public” property, including lands and mail are used to propagate the message in California, a FPPC number must be included so the public may find out who is paying for the message.

In our county a private property owner may remove and destroy an unwanted political sign at their own will.  Prudent campaigners will get permission in writing before placing a sign in order to defend their candidate if a future dispute should arise.  If the sign is improperly placed in a Public Right of Way the DOT is charged with sign removal. Sometimes they will take the sign down and simply “lay it down” in place for the sign placer or candidate’s workers to retrieve.  In other cases they may take the signs to the DOT yard and inform the candidate that they have impounded the signs and they are able to be retrieved at the DOT yard.

These are the general practices of political sign placement and removal in our county.  Anything else is unusual and often therefore newsworthy.

Campaigning is truly a high-stress activity and takes a thick skin and prudence in reactionary statements.  A seasoned campaign manager servers as an insulator between the candidate and the harsh stresses of the campaign trail.  They will make sure that if a candidate gets directly involved with a sign removal, that the Press is called to be at the scene to take pictures and statements, as they know that the Press will inevitably get involved and it is better to present the activity in a light that benefits the candidate’s campaign.

Supervisor Novasel decided to take matters into her own hands and now opponent Curtzwiler is making hay as the sun shines on the election.

In response to her challenger's accusation of “Stealing” a sign Supervisor Novasel wrote, “I believe in 1st Amendment rights  and respect differences of opinion in the midst of a campaign. However, disturbing hate signs have recently emerged in various places. Driving down Pioneer Trail last week, I saw a sign with a red circle and red slash running from top left to bottom right  with the diagonal red slash crossing over my last name Novasel. The sign did not advocate for a political candidate or ballot issue. There was nothing on the sign to represent ownership, nor was it labeled as linked to a political action committee or my opponent. From my viewpoint, this sign amounted to a target placed anonymously to frighten my family and me... In my opinion, the sign was representing hate speech and threatening towards all members of my family. It was offensive in its placement… I removed the sign not knowing whom it belonged to and drove it to the El Dorado County Department of Transportation Office in Meyers.”

Although she acted on her own she added, “the Department of Transportation is responsible for right of way property on county roads.”  

When the District Attorney was pressed by Curtzwiler to press charges against Novasel over the sign removal the DA responded, “No charges will be filed because the sign was posted in a right of way, which is improper. Any public employee may remove a sign that is posted in a prohibited area, such as this one. The person who posted the sign did not realize it was a right of  way and has seen other signs posted in this same area, leading them to believe it would be ok to put the sign there."

Dissatisfied by this response Curtzwiler accused the DA of Bias, accused the position of being on the Board of Supervisors by above the law, and appealed to the State’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra to press charges.

The following is in response to the removal of an anti-Sue Novasel campaign sign and an  investigation by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office. The DA's office made the following statement - "No charges will be filed because the sign was posted in a right of way, which is improper. Any public employee may remove a sign that is posted in a prohibited area, such as this one. The person who posted the sign did not realize it was a right of  way and has seen other signs posted in this same area, leading them to believe it would be ok to put the sign there."

In a Media Release issued on October 22 by Kenny Curtzwiler, candidate for El Dorado County Supervisor, District 5 wrote:

"the county’s district attorney refuses to prosecute and has defended Novasels 'lawless conduct’… local District Attorney Vern Pierson, who Curtzwiler said depends on Supervisor Novasel to approve the budget for his office."

"Becerra is being asked to intervene because the local prosecutor should have recused himself due to a conflict of interest" Curtzwiler said. "As a candidate for the Board of Supervisors, 5th District... it is very alarming when my opponent, incumbent Supervisor Sue Novasel, is caught red handed stealing private property, a political sign she did not like.  What made it even more outrageous, our District Attorney refused to prosecute, implicitly condoning lawlessness, with some baseless arguments... Supervisors approve the budget for District Attorney Vern Pierson and a wide range of activities by that office... The conflicts of interest present here are significant. Supervisors approve the budget for District Attorney Vern Pierson and a wide range of activities by that office.  Both the elected office holders, Novasel and Pierson, although from different political parties, share some of the same special interests to finance their campaigns... Therefore, I am requesting that your office investigate the facts and vigorously prosecute as the evidence warrants and seek an immediate injunctive relief to prevent Sue Novasal and any other persons from vandalizing political signs.

Curtzwiler added, "our District Attorney refused to prosecute, implicitly condoning lawlessness, with some baseless arguments... While District Attorney Pierson has recused himself in some cases involving politicians, asking your office to handle matters where it would appear to be improper for his office to do so, he regrettably refused to do so here, giving some flimsy excuses that appear fabrications for his defense of Supervisor Novasel. The odor is unmistakable. The county has a code enforcement department to handle these issues, there is no reason for her to do that work.   The DA’s excuse that any “public employee” can do this is specious since she was not acting in her official capacity and because she is an elected office holder, not a public employee as the law defines those words.