Residents of Clairemont have been playing a game of “Where’s Waldo” — except it’s not much of a challenge. In this scenario, Waldo is the campaign signage of Denise Gitsham, a former candidate for U.S. Congress who lost to incumbent Scott Peters on November 8. Residents say they saw her signage clustered all over Clairemont even before the primaries — sometimes only inches or feet apart from each other.
Now that the election is over, residents are starting to lose their patience, including Bob Grier of Clairemont. “Okay, Denise Gitsham, you lost, now pick up your damn signs!” posted Grier on a local social media site.
“It started out kind of tongue-in-cheek, but she was so abusive with her signs that she needed to be called out,” said Grier. “Now it’s been a week and most everyone else’s signs are gone, but if you drive up Genesee from Balboa to [University Towne Centre] you’ll see plenty of her signs are still up.” Grier said the signs helped him remember her name well enough not to vote for her (a sentiment shared by more than a few people in Clairemont).
Residents say they contacted Gitsham’s campaign via Facebook and her website while others contacted the city clerk’s office or councilmember Chris Cate’s office. One resident says they called the city after seeing a huge number of Gitsham signs on a median in Clairemont in September. He was told by the city's Code Enforcement department that it was a low priority.
Some residents say they are removing the signs themselves and some are having at it another way. Carl Manaster of Bay Park said a couple days ago that he saw a campaign sign on the west side of Genesee, between Route 52 and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, that read, “Denise GitSPAM.”
Grier said, “I saw one on the way home last night where someone blocked out the ’S’ and it read ‘Git ham.’ Glad to see someone still has a sense of humor.”
Patti Robinson from Clairemont said that Gitsham’s campaign put out hundreds of signs in her neighborhood. ”Someone finally took them down, after many calls and emails.... She was the only candidate that did this in my neighborhood.”
The city clerk’s office gave me the packet that every candidate receives upon registering their candidacy. It states that no signs are allowed in the public right-of-way and warns that illegally placed signs are subject to a minimum $250 fine. According to a city employee who asked not to be quoted directly, the reason that political candidates aren’t allowed to post any signage on public right-of-ways is because it's seen as an endorsement by the city.
This could explain why so many vacant lots get hit with political blight — though that’s not allowed either, without the owner’s permission. The few times I've contacted owners of vacant lots plastered with political signage in 2016, it was always the case that permission wasn’t granted.
Though people have been seen removing Gitsham signs in the Clairemont area, as of November 14 there were still a lot of them left posted and lying flat on the ground —perhaps for the same reason that this reporter wasn’t able to get photos of many of them: they’re in areas too dangerous for pedestrians, such as on the roadside of SR-52.
I asked Paul Brencick from city communications how long Gitsham has to remove her signs and he said, “There is no time frame since they are not allowed to post signs on public property in the first place.”
I was unable to reach Gitsham or anyone in her campaign for a comment.