In the weeks leading up to the Tuesday Primary Runoff election, a Jody Hice supporter has filed three police reports with Athens-Clarke County police that campaign signs for the congressional hopeful have been stolen or vandalized. In the most recent report, filed Wednesday, the complainant, Andrew Clyde of Athens, blamed unnamed individuals who support Hice’s opponent, Mike Collins, for the damage.
In all, Clyde said Thursday, he’s reported at least 25 signs stolen, which he said adds up to at least $1,000 in damage. In fact, he told police, security footage from a business shows one sign was taken twice.
According to the report, still shots from an automatic surveillance camera at Duncan and Company, a jewelry store on Atlanta Highway, show a Hice sign in plain view at 2:43 a.m. Two minutes later, it’s gone from the camera’s view.
He reported last week that six signs that he placed in the 200 block of West Broad Street were defaced between 1:30-8 a.m. July 10 by someone who painted the word “sexist” on them, police said.
While the only official reports of theft have come from Hice’s side, Collins’ campaign posted a video on YouTube that shows a woman wearing a Hice T-shirt carrying a Collins sign along the side of a road. She told the Collins staffer recording her from his vehicle that she had permission to replace the Collins sign with a Hice one.
The video, which uses interviews from several individuals to accuse Hice’s campaign of the same “shenanigans” for which Collins supporters have been blamed, was taken down several days ago, but re-posted Thursday on YouTube.
“We’d be happy to comply with any legitimate police matter, but the Hice campaign has grown desperate near the end and this is likely one more example of that,” Collins spokesman Brandon Phillips said Thursday. “Empirically, filing police reports on stolen signs do little to nothing to stop sign snatchers. In contrast, however, video proof of the culprits getting caught red-handed often does the trick. Even ardent supporters don’t like seeing their face on the Internet doing what most people agree to be immature at best, illegal at worst.”
Clyde maintains that he contacted the authorities on his own volition, and was not asked by the campaign to file a complaint.
“They said nothing to me about it,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
As a response to questions about the increasingly tense atmosphere of the campaign, Hice spokesman Clarke Brannon e-mailed a list of eight individuals, including Clyde, who he said would support claims from the Hice camp that Collins supporters have continually harassed Hice volunteers.
And recently, a letter was mailed to Democrats urging them to vote for Collins in the Primary, although the letter did not say who paid for it.
The two have been increasingly swapping insults on the campaign trail in the days leading up to the Tuesday election. Jody Hice seemed to be in full-on attack mode at a July 8 debate in Oconee County for Collins’ ambition to follow his father, former congressman Mac Collins, to Washington, D.C.
He followed that note by sending a mailer of a cartoon illustration of the two Collins, with candidate Mike Collins trailing along by his father’s coattails.
Phillips said the attacks on the elder Collins violated an unspoken political rule not to drag an opponent’s family into the mudslinging.
“You’ve said a number of times that your political philosophy is closely identified with that of your dad. He was very good on some social issues, but he went along with the establishment. ...This looks like a sequel that’s a nightmare,” Hice said after citing several votes by the elder ‑ raising the debt ceiling, his own salary and approving the No Child Left Behind Act.
Collins defended his father’s conservative voting record before pointing his finger at Hice for statements in his 2012 book perceived by some as anti-Islamic.
The two continue to clash over ways to address the federal budget deficit, while taking the opportunity to attack each other on a more personal level.
At a July 13 Atlanta Press Club Debate, Hice took a parting shot at Collins’ fundraising and his father’s service in the U.S. House, Morris News Service reported.
“Serving in Congress ought to be something that is earned, not something that is inherited, not something that is purchased,” Hice said.
Collins chided Hice for opposing the majority of federal initiatives.
“He doesn’t even have a positive plan for Washington,” Collins said. “He just wants to be Dr. No.”