A masked man assaulted an Anchorage Daily News photographer on Friday afternoon while he was on assignment, looking at a hotspot for campaign sign vandalism.
ADN Editor David Hulen wrote about the incident in the newspaper. It comes amid what a campaign consultant said is an unprecedented level of sign theft and vandalism this election cycle.
According to ADN’s account, Holmes talked to a man on Friday who appeared to be tending to some campaign signs at 100th Avenue and Minnesota Drive. The man lied about his identity, and they argued about Holmes’ right to photograph him on public land. It escalated. Holmes tripped and the man jumped on top of him, took his phone by force and fled.
Ship Creek Group partner Ira Slomski-Pritz said he thinks it’s likely that Holmes’ assailant and the sign vandalism are connected.
“Considering it’s a high frequency spot and that the person was going to lengths to hide his identity definitely makes me suspicious,” he said.
The Ship Creek Group is working for four left-of-center campaigns this cycle: Assembly candidates Zac Johnson, Karen Bronga and Anna Brawley, and school board candidate Andy Holleman. Slomski-Pritz said it seems like his candidates’ signs are being specifically targeted, while conservative candidates’ signs in the same spaces are spared.
“It’s pretty unambiguous that this is a targeted effort to destroy signs,” Slomski-Pritz said. “Like, the frames are sawed up, the signs are disappeared, the sandbags are cut and spilled open so they can’t be reused. Sometimes there’s graffiti on the signs.”
It’s especially concentrated in the southern part of the city, he said.
Some conservative candidates acknowledge the vandalism appears to be lopsided or condemned the sign destruction.
“We do not condone or support this type of activity. This is not the way,” Assembly candidate Rachel Ries wrote on Facebook, referencing one of school board candidate Andy Holleman’s signs that had the words “child porn” painted across it.
Assembly candidate John Trueblood said the only sign issues he’s had seem to be from snowmelt and wind.
“It’s just unfortunate,” he said. “You know, no one should be vandalizing anything.”
Slomski-Pritz said that campaign signs are important for name recognition especially in local elections because candidates have limited exposure and voter engagement tends to be low. He said it’s important that everyone reject sign vandalism so it isn’t validated as a political tactic.
Anchorage Police spokesperson Renee Oistad said counts of vandalism and theft of political signs are not readily available, so the trend is just anecdotal at this point.
Slomski-Pritz said he assumes police act in good faith to investigate reports of campaign vandalism, though limited resources and information mean they are rarely resolved. He thinks Holmes’ case deserves more attention because there was actual violence.
“I think we should all be really concerned about that. I don’t think anyone wants our local politics to be something that amounts to violence – against anyone, including journalists. It’s just – it’s quite sad.”
According to the ADN, Holmes came away from the scuffle with a scrape, but was otherwise uninjured. He was able to recover his phone.
Oistad said no charges have been filed in the incident at 100th and Minnesota on Friday.