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FARMINGTON — County Republican and Democratic party leaders say many of their candidates' campaign signs have been stolen or vandalized.

Sean Sharer, the chairman of the San Juan County Republican Party, said the party raised money and purchased 30 signs that were 4 feet by 8 feet promoting the campaign of presidential candidate Donald Trump and vice presidential candidate Michael Pence. Sharer said each sign cost about $150.

He said within a week, 10 of those signs were either missing or vandalized beyond repair. Sharer said at least four were missing, and others were spray painted with obscenities or torn up. The Republicans replaced the signs, and two of the replacements have been vandalized.

The San Juan County Democratic Party also has had signs vandalized or stolen.

"We've had some signs that were burned and some signs that were ... vandalized," said Henry Silentman, the chairman of the San Juan County Democratic Party.

Silentman said other signs were stolen, although he did not have an estimate about the number of signs vandalized or stolen.

He said the thefts and vandalism are not surprising, explaining that in 2012, a lot of Barack Obama campaign signs were vandalized. Silentman said several Bernie Sanders campaign signs were vandalized earlier this year.

"People doing this probably feel like they're protesting," Sharer said.

He said the vandals and sign thieves are intruding on freedom of speech.

Sharer said local Republicans are now checking on the signs daily and have reported the vandalism and thefts to Sheriff Ken Christesen. Silentman said the Democratic Party has not reported the vandalism or thefts to local police.

Both party leaders condemned the vandalism of campaign signs, which Silentman attributes to zeal about candidates.

"It's within the right of ways that we put the signs, and it's within freedom of expression," Silentman said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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