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Campaign trail: Sheriff will move his signs from highway right-of-way

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Sheriff Lane Cribb will take down campaign signs placed in state highway rights-of-way following a complaint from a Georgetown resident. The signs went up recently in advance of the Republican Party primary next month.

The five-term incumbent isn’t on the primary ballot, but faces opposition in November. Cribb said he forgot that there are is no provision for write-in challenges in primaries.

Marty Tennant, a former candidate for the state House of Representatives and mayor of Georgetown, filed a complaint last week with the sheriff’s office about the sheriff’s signs on Highway 17. Tennant’s online forum The Citizens’ Report is part of the state Adopt-A-Highway program along Highway 17 just east of the Waccamaw River. He filed the complaint because “the sheriff, the chief law enforcement officer, should know better.”

State law prohibits signs on highway rights-of-way and bans political signs from public property. Georgetown County amended its sign ordinance in 2011 to remove restrictions on political signs, even though it acknowledged that the state Department of Transportation was unlikely to enforce the prohibition. “The problem is nobody wants to take responsibility,” Tennant said.

The sheriff’s office passed Tennant’s complaint on to the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate. “They didn’t want to do it, but I can’t do it,” Cribb said.

While he will move his signs onto private property, he won’t enforce the state law for other candidates. That’s the state’s job, he said. “They’ve allowed it, they might as well make it legal,” Cribb said.

But since they are not legal, Tennant said he plans to start picking up campaign signs as litter. “State law is there to protect legally placed signs,” he said. Those would be signs on private property.

“If you pull up one that’s in a legal spot, you can be prosecuted,” Cribb said. That wouldn’t apply to Tennant, or anyone else, who picked up a sign in the state highway right-of-way. “It’s kind of like litter,” he said.

County GOP chairman Randy Hollister said the legislature needs to settle on a law that’s enforced. While he agrees with concerns for litter and safety, he said the “garden of signs” that blooms before elections help make voters aware. “After an election, it’s litter,” Hollister said.

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