Sign wars heat up in Aspen as realtors hope to cash in on campaigns

ASPEN — Eleven scenic acres for sale on the banks of the Roaring Fork River just outside of Aspen are becoming a hotbed of partisan gamesmanship as supporters of Colorado’s stumping politicians jockey to one-up each other ahead of November’s election.

Campaign signs near Aspen. (Photo by Troy Hooper)
Last month, GOP signs promoting Colorado Senate District 5 candidate Bob Rankin, U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck and U.S. congressional candidate Scott Tipton popped up on the highly visible property, which straddles the river and Highway 82.

It didn’t take long before Democrats answered with their own call to action. Colorado House District 61 candidate Roger Wilson was the first to place his sign up on the fence in front of the Republican signs. Then about a week ago, Democrat signs promoting Colorado Senate District 5 candidate Gail Schwartz, U.S. Congressman John Salazar and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper followed.

So what’s going on? Why would a private property owner use her land to promote political candidates from two different parties, at least a couple of whom are directly competing against one another?

“What she told me is that the more political signs, the better because it brings exposure to her property and her property is up for sale,” said Tony Scheer, a real estate agent in Carbondale, who was the first to put up the Republican signs after getting the property owner’s number from the listing broker.

“She gave us permission to put our signs up,” he said.

With real estate activity still mired in molasses, Tim Mooney, the listing broker for the property, said that after the owner, Kathy Reisner of California, approved the GOP signs, he invited the Democrats to put up their signs too as an unorthodox marketing tactic to attract more exposure to his client’s land.

“As a broker, I’m trying to attract as much attention to the property as possible,” he said, adding that the 11 acres, approved for two single-family homes, are available for $3 million.

According to both Mooney and Wilson, Scheer was pretty steamed when the signs for the Democrats went up and he phoned Wilson and threatened to rip the signs down if Wilson didn’t. Now, however, everyone appears to be on the same page. “I don’t have an issue. As far as I’m concerned, there is no issue,” said Scheer.

Wilson noted that, while the Democratic signs are in front of the GOP signs, he purposely tried not to block them and instead positioned them so that all of the messages can be read by passing motorists.

“Their signs are visible entering and leaving while ours are right there when you go by because their signs are perpendicular to the road and ours are parallel to the road,” the Democrat said.

Still, there could be at least one more sign on the way.

“I’m thinking of putting my own sign up there,” said Mooney, the real estate agent. “I can get the exposure from all the colorful signs that are already on it to attract attention for a possible sale.”

That would be quite a few signs. But do they work?

“Some people don’t think they make any difference,” said Wilson, whose signs are also posted in front yards, public open spaces and other valley locales. “Some people think they make a lot of difference. My own opinion is they are important to reinforce your message and create name recognition. Very important.”

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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