America’s increasingly ugly political climate that on Friday made headlines with a man assaulting the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now reared its head in Pocatello.
State Rep. Dustin Manwaring’s downtown Pocatello billboard supporting his re-election campaign was vandalized this past weekend with a spray-painted death threat against him.
The text on the billboard read “Re-elect Manwaring,” but the vandals crossed out the word “Re-elect” and spray-painted the word “Kill” in its place. The vandals also spray painted a red hanger over Manwaring’s picture on the billboard, located at Pocatello and South Third avenues. The hanger is a recognized symbol of the pro-choice movement.
The Republican Manwaring, an attorney from Pocatello, is trying to fend off a challenge from Democrat Mary Shea, also a Pocatello attorney, in the Nov. 8 election.
Manwaring said he believes the vandalism occurred late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
“Yesterday, I learned about some graffiti on one of my local campaign billboards for re-election to the Idaho House of Representatives,” Manwaring said in a Sunday statement to the Idaho State Journal. “When I drove over to see it, my wife and I were shocked and frankly scared when we saw the written threat. We also saw the picture of the coat hanger spray painted which has become a symbol of the radical left in their fight to protect abortion and vilify all Republicans. I am saddened that local politics has turned so vicious. There are vile radio ads against me funded by the Democratic legislative campaign committee through a group called Accountable Idaho. I am not sure if this type of rhetoric has caused someone to act out but I know the lies being told and the tone being shared is nothing like I have seen before in politics and I have not felt threatened before in Pocatello.”
Manwaring continued, “I am primarily concerned with making sure my family is safe and knowing if this is someone confused about policy and not a real threat beyond the vandalism. It hits home when you are having a conversation with your 4-year-old because the state police are in your living room and he knows the police are only supposed to be there if you are in trouble or you need help. I have asked Rep. James Ruchti, my Democratic colleague and the Democrat Party to affirmatively state that they do not condone this behavior because it exceeds all sense of decency and civility in politics and elections. We are better than this in Pocatello.”
Pocatello police and Idaho State Police have launched an investigation into the vandalism.
Pocatello’s Democratic legislative candidates Shea, Ruchti and Nate Roberts along with Bannock County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Landon issued the following statement on Sunday about the vandalism: “The defacing of Rep. Manwaring’s billboard with a threat of violence is wrong. It is absolutely, unequivocally wrong and should be condemned by both parties, all candidates, and their supporters in the firmest terms. As Chair of the Bannock County Democrats and as legislative candidates for District 29 who represent the Democratic Party, we condemn these acts and call on everyone participating in this election — and especially the candidates — to do the same. We must do better. We must be better. Our democracy depends on it.”
The group Pro-Choice Southeast Idaho also responded to the vandalism with this Sunday statement posted via Facebook: “We have been informed that a Dustin Manwaring billboard has been vandalized with the word ‘kill.’ As a reminder to all of our followers, this is not an action supported by Pro-Choice Southeast Idaho. We do not support vandalism, threats, or violence directed toward anyone. Nobody deserves to have their safety threatened. We are a peaceful group advocating for people’s right to choose what they do with their own bodies — we are not a violent, threatening group and we are deeply upset that anyone would threaten someone like they did with the vandalism to Dustin Manwaring’s sign.”
The death threat against Manwaring comes on the heels of the early Friday morning assault on Pelosi’s husband at the couple’s San Francisco home that left him in the hospital and the hammer-wielding suspect in police custody.
There are fears that with the Nov. 8 election quickly approaching and the nation being increasingly polarized politically, that more violence could be forthcoming.
Manwaring said the death threat spray-painted on his billboard is deeply concerning and he hopes both sides of the political aisle refrain from such behavior moving forward.
The Democrats running for Bannock County Commission, Kathleen Lewis and Lisa Alexander, as well as Democratic Bannock County assessor candidate Tamara Code are in full agreement with him on those points.
Lewis, Alexander and Code issued the following statement on Sunday: “We strongly condemn the defacing of Rep. Manwaring’s billboard with the threat of violence. All citizens must condemn these reprehensible acts and call on everyone participating in this election — especially the candidates and their supporters to do the same. As Bannock County Democratic candidates we cannot emphasize enough our shock and outrage at this act of violence.”
By Monday the death threat against Manwaring was attracting statewide attention and Idaho GOP Chairwoman Dorothy Moon issued the following statement: “Representative republics, like ours, are not immune from the problem of political violence. The Idaho Republican Party condemns violence — or the use of physical force targeting public officials or their families — in all instances. The vile threat of violence against Rep. Manwaring has no place in Idaho, and we here at the Idaho GOP call upon all political parties and elected officials to join us in condemning this act. We are confident Idaho’s vigilant citizens will work with state and local law enforcement to get to the bottom of this and hold those accountable who engage in this kind of action.”