Candidate says signs are being stolen in retaliation for bill on transgender youth health care

Posted at 3:20 PM, Jun 13, 2024

OREM, Utah — A candidate in Utah's 3rd Congressional District race believes his campaign signs are being targeted in retaliation for his sponsorship of a controversial bill on transgender youth health care.

"We’re right in the middle of a political fight for our life and they've taken down sign after sign for us," said Mike Kennedy, a Republican candidate in the race.

Kennedy said his campaign has found signs have disappeared in Wasatch, Utah and Salt Lake counties and they've reported it to multiple police departments. In Alpine, Kennedy said, one sign has been stolen repeatedly and he's now got a security camera watching it.

"This is targeting in a systematic fashion. We’re seeing it in Wasatch County, Utah County, Salt Lake County, this is widespread. It’s not just the one person we caught on tape. We expect it’s a coordinated effort by multiple people," he said.

The Kennedy campaign provided FOX 13 News with video of a man in Orem throwing a sign in the back of a truck.

"It’s illegal to do that!" the campaign worker filming said.

"What’s that?" the man on video replied.

"It’s illegal to do that. To steal our signs."

"Express my freedom of speech?" the man replied.

"We’ll be calling the police, thank you very much."

"OK!" the man said, getting in a truck.

Kennedy believes the sign thefts are retaliation over his sponsorship of Senate Bill 16 in the Utah State Legislature. The 2023 law, which imposed a moratorium on hormone therapies for transgender youth and banned gender-affirming surgeries for them, drew significant protest and pushback on Utah's Capitol Hill.

"I suspect, because my opponents signs are left behind, this has to do with my legislative record, that there's some controversy as to prior bills that I've passed and the main one is the ban on dangerous and irreversible surgeries on children for transgenderism in our state. My suspicion is that’s what they’re targeting with taking down my signs," he said.

The senator reported in April of last year that his home was vandalized over his sponsorship of the bill, which prompted public condemnation from both social conservatives and LGBTQ rights groups.

The Orem Police Department confirmed to FOX 13 News it is investigating the theft of campaign signs. On Thursday, the agency announced it had brought charges but declined to name the person it cited or a motive.

"Based upon evidence provided by witnesses, a male suspect was identified and his home located. Orem detectives drafted a search warrant and several campaign signs were located on the suspect's property. The suspect is facing four charges related to the theft of campaign signs," the police department said.

The Kennedy campaign said it believes it has lost $10,000 worth of campaign signs.

Campaign sign thefts do happen regularly during election cycles as volunteers carpet the state, seeking to drum up support for their preferred candidate. It is a class B misdemeanor to steal them, punishable by a fine or even jail time. The legislature recently passed a law that allows Utah's Department of Transportation to remove campaign signs it deems are posing a traffic hazard. UDOT told FOX 13 News on Thursday it always calls a campaign to let them know that is happening.

Kennedy is among five candidates running for the Republican nomination for 3rd Congressional District, seeking to replace Congressman John Curtis, who is leaving office to run for the open U.S. Senate seat. The other candidates in the 3rd Congressional District race are JR Bird, John Dougall, Case Lawrence and Stewart Peay.