Two weeks ago, frustrated by repeated thefts from the trees in front of their home on Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Wendell Allen, 88, and his son Skip posted a sign that read “Pro-Senator Allen thugs have stolen a Webb sign from this location three times!” After Saturday night, the sign needed to be updated.
Late on Saturday night, thieves stole a four by three foot Jim Webb sign that had been nailed to a tree. After losing two small signs and a similar large one, the Allens had illuminated their fourth sign with Christmas lights and a floodlight. But last week VDOT told them to turn off the lights because they were distracting drivers.
The Allens threw the switch, but believed another theft would be inevitable. “I can’t say I was too surprised,” Wendell Allen said of his reaction on Sunday morning when he discovered the sign missing. “This has been a long, drawn-out, frustrating experience. I’ll tell you.”
And Skip Allen said that when he purchased an adhesive number “4” to update his sign, he went ahead and purchased a number “5” as well. “Once this is stolen we’ll put the 5 up,” he said. “We’ll keep a tally.”
The Mount Vernon Democratic Committee issued a press release on Monday condemning the thefts and calling for volunteers to guard the stolen sign’s replacement. “We are going to put out a call to all of the committees in northern Virginia and hopefully some blogs to get people on two-hour shifts to protect Mr. Allen’s signs,” said Scott Surovell, chairman of the committee. “I have many people on my committee who are pretty incensed by the way this 88-year-old man has been treated,” he added. “They feel very strongly that its political intimidation and they need to do something about it.”
State Delegate Kristen Amundsen, a Democrat, said she would be doing something. “I’m going to be one of the ones who is going to go out there and sit. That is just how upset how I am.”
SUROVELL SAID that several months ago, when President George Bush attended a George Allen fundraiser in the neighborhood, Democrats and Republicans demonstrated peacefully together on the same road the Allens live on. “I think in general Mount Vernon Democrats and Republicans, although we disagree pretty passionately about the issues, we get along. But there are some rogue elements out there.”
Citing Allen’s call during his 1994 gubernatorial campaign for his supporters to kick Democrats’ “soft teeth down their whiny throats,” and the incident in south-west Virginia this summer when Allen called a camera-wielding Webb campaign worker of Indian descent “macaca,” Surovell said, “It’s not a surprise to me that some of his supporters might think this is an appropriate way for people to campaign.”
Doug Jones, the chairman of the Mount Vernon District Republican Party, said none of his campaign workers are involved in the theft. “I made it real clear to everyone in the Mount Vernon District Republican Party that that is not to be tolerated. We don’t condone that behavior. That is not what we do.” He added that 50 Allen signs he posted along Route 1 on Sunday had disappeared by Tuesday.
Surovell said the stolen plywood signs cost the committee a total of about $150 and hours of volunteer work. “It’s costing real money.” The Mount Vernon Democrats delivered another plywood Webb sign to Wendell Allen on Monday. Skip Allen also found the stolen sign discarded in a ditch between his father’s house and the Mount Vernon Estate. The Allens plan to post the signs so drivers will see them from both directions. Skip Allen said he would put a sticky epoxy on the edges of the signs to deter thieves. “There were other ways I could booby trap the sign but my dad thought there would be too much potential liability,” he added.
Wendell Allen said he just wants election day to come and bring an end to an ordeal he’d never asked for. “It’s going to be a flip of the coin,” he said of the elections result. “I’ll either go out and buy a barrel of champagne or I’ll get a gun and shoot myself. I’ll tell you, there’s no in-between, it’s either champagne or death.”