CEDAR CITY — One of four candidates seeking a seat on the Cedar City Council announced Tuesday he will take down his campaign signs 1 1/2 weeks before Election Day, in advance of public tours of the new Mormon temple, and challenged his opponents to do the same.
Candidate Bruce Hughes said that despite spending nearly $2,500 on signs for his campaign, taking down his signs early is his part in decluttering the city to make it sparkle. He plans to have all his signs removed from public view before Oct. 27, the first day of a three-week open house for the new temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including tours expected to attract 150,000 or more visitors.
Hughes issued the rather unusual challenge during a candidate debate held Tuesday at Southern Utah University.
“Let’s make Cedar sparkle and take down those signs,” he said during his opening remarks at the hourlong forum.
Hughes pronouncement echoed Cedar City Councilman Fred Rowley’s call in March to “make Cedar sparkle” in time for the temple dedication.
Following the candidate forum, however, Hughes said his challenge was met with less than enthusiasm by fellow council candidates Scott Phillips and incumbent Ron Adams. Their responses, Hughes said, ranged from “No way, are you crazy?” to “I think if visitors see our signs, they will know the democratic process is going well here.”
Phillips, a political newcomer who led all Cedar City Council candidates with more than 37 percent of the total vote in August’s primary election, told Cedar City News that while he considered Hughes’ proposal, he ultimately decided to keep his own signs up, but plans to rapidly remove them the moment the election is concluded.
“For me, this is a demonstration of democracy in action,” Phillips said, adding, “I think it is important for citizens and visitors alike to know that Cedar City has a vibrant and important municipal election in process. As a courtesy, I do plan to scale back on a couple of my signs which are near the temple site, but will not be removing the rest of my signs prior to the election.”
Adams, who is seeking his third four-year term on the council with the second-most votes from the August primary, expressed similar ideas in his response to Cedar City News.
“To me,” Adams said, “to ensure that we fairly and accurately represent the views of our entire community, I think as community leaders we have to be very careful to ensure we protect personal property rights, freedom of speech and separation of church and state. Having vibrant local election signs among our community not only tells visitors we have an active and engaged city, but it also signifies just how deeply we care about being involved and wanting to do all we can to further the city.”
Adams believes LDS church leaders and members will support rather than discourage his stance. He said:
One thing I have been extremely grateful for is how the LDS faith, the faith I belong to, strongly encourages becoming involved and informed voters, stresses the importance of casting your vote, and asks its members to make it a priority to mindfully participate in the political process wherever they live. I know the church leaders would never tell us to take down our campaign signs during the election period.
A fourth council candidate, Rich Gillette, did not attend and participate in Tuesday’s debate and did not respond to Cedar City News’ several requests for comment for this report.
Phillips won the primary election with 2,139 votes (37.2 percent); Adams received 1,218 votes (21.2 percent); Hughes, 1,133 votes (19.7 percent); and Gillette, 560 votes (9.7 percent) .
Hughes said he assured his opponents that he was serious about the challenge and is not merely attempting a publicity stunt. He later told Cedar City News that his rationale includes the fact that ballots have already been mailed out and many people will have already voted by mail before Oct. 27.
The municipal general election is Nov. 7. Mail-in voters have through Nov. 6 to have their ballots postmarked. Early voting in Cedar City begins Tuesday and runs through Nov. 3 with polling and ballot boxes at City Council Chambers, 10 N. Main St. Find more information here.
“Taking (the signs) all down levels the playing field and might make some people actually think about who to vote for,” Hughes said, adding, “It probably hurts me the most because I was the No. 3 vote-getter in the primaries.”
The top two vote-earners in the general election will each win a four-year term on the Cedar City Council.
Although not directly targeted by Hughes’ challenge Tuesday, candidates for Cedar City mayor’s seat, incumbent Maile Wilson and Ryan Durfee, both told Cedar City News they will not be removing their signs before the election.
Durfee said he’d be OK with removing some signs as long as Wilson does the same.
“I would be fine doing it, because it’d be to my advantage,” he said, noting he has spent considerably less money on his campaign than has Wilson on her signs. “But on the other hand, I’d be doing a disservice to those supporting me.”
Rowley, who is not running for re-election and helped start the “Make Cedar City Sparkle” initiative several months ago, applauded when he first heard Hughes’ campaign sign challenge, Hughes said, and said he hopes other candidates will follow his example.
Still, Rowley acknowledged the issue is a difficult one since most candidates don’t want to see their expensive signs and banners go to waste.
“I think they’ve all at least agreed to move their signs away from Cove Drive,” Rowley said, referring to the winding, largely residential street on which the temple is located and along which tens of thousands of visitors are expected to travel in the coming weeks.
Public response to his sign-removal plan has been largely supportive, Hughes said, noting citizens seem to easily understand his logic.
“The concept of signs has been the hardest part of campaigning for me. I really do think they look trashy and asking people if I could litter their yard with my sign has been hard,” Hughes said, adding, “I was criticized by friend and foe after the primary because I had only yard signs and no larger signs, so I bought 10 larger signs and 10 medium-size signs and put them in traffic areas,” Hughes added. “They will all come down by Oct. 27.”
Regardless of the election’s outcome, Hughes said he hopes to promote civic goodwill through his efforts.
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