St George candidate signs defaced over drag shows

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A citywide vandalism spree in St. George, Utah, is under investigation as investigators aim to identify the culprits responsible for damaging and altering campaign signs belonging to incumbent City Council member Dannielle Larkin.

The series of incidents, which targeted Larkin’s campaign materials, occurred at various locations throughout the city. St. George police are now reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses to gather information on the vandals.

According to St. George police officer Tiffany Mitchell, ten of Larkin’s campaign signs were defaced, with smaller signs affixed to the larger placards accusing the incumbent of supporting ‘all-ages’ drag shows in public spaces.

Post-It notes saying Larkin supports all-ages drag shows were also affixed to over 100 cars in a parking lot.

Larkin, who received the most votes in the September 5 primary and is seeking re-election for a second term, expressed her bewilderment regarding the vandalism of her campaign materials and the dissemination of false information. She highlighted the inaccuracy and offensiveness of the accusations.

“They are basically saying that because I support the LGBTQ community, I support drag shows being held in front of children in our parks,” Larkin told The Salt Lake Tribune. “The reality is [elected officials] in St. George have never voted on whether or not to allow drag shows in our parks. We don’t choose the content of events that can be in our parks, but we do vote on whether or not to apply our city codes [governing events] evenly.”

The issue of drag shows in city spaces has been a contentious topic in southern Utah over the past year and a half. In October 2022, city manager Adam Lenhard was dismissed for refusing to cancel the HBO “We’re Here” drag show at a municipal park, which resulted in a confidential $625,000 settlement to avoid a wrongful termination suit.

The latest chapter in the ongoing cultural debate occurred when the city council upheld the denial of Southern Utah Drag Stars’ application to hold a drag show at a municipal park. This decision was based on an advertising restriction that bans applicants from promoting special events until receiving final approval and a permit from the city. Larkin opposed this move, believing it was discriminatory.

Larking believes the vandalism is an extension of the ongoing controversies surrounding cultural issues in the city. St. George Planning Commissioner Steve Kemp, who is also running for a seat on the City Council, agrees, describing the campaign as “uglier” than previous ones due to the “level of dysfunction” within the council.

St. George Mayor Michele Randall, meanwhile, condemned the vandalism and dissemination of false information on her Facebook page, stating, “These kinds of campaign tactics don’t belong in our community. We are better than this.”

Officer Tiffany Mitchell pointed out that removing, altering, defacing, or vandalizing campaign signs is a class B misdemeanor. The investigation into the vandalism is ongoing as the city seeks to bring the culprits to justice.

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