Retired Roseburg restaurateur Mark Vincent says he was shocked to pick up the newspaper and see himself accused of trespassing, sleazy campaign tactics and disregarding private property.
Vincent, one of seven candidates for the nonpartisan office of Douglas County commissioner, dialed Roseburg property owner Bill Woods, who made the allegations in a paid advertisement published all last week.
“I was madder than a wet hornet,” Vincent said. “I immediately called Bill Woods ready to pull out his beard. We had a good conversation. I calmed down and said, ‘I understand this is politics. I should be flattered you guys think I’m such a threat to your guy.’”
Vincent wasn’t Woods’ only target. He blasted Democrats from the president, identified in the ad as “O’Bama,” on down. But he was particularly harsh on Vincent.
“I’m very down on the Democratic Party and the way things are running right now,” Woods said Thursday.
Woods took out the ad in The News-Review after campaign signs for Vincent, county Assessor Susan Acree and state Democratic House candidate Natasha Bjornsen appeared on a vacant lot he owns. Vincent and Acree are running for nonpartisan positions, but both have associated themselves with the Democratic Party.
The mowed, grassy lot on Diamond Lake Boulevard in Roseburg is for sale. It has in past years hosted the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market and still provides parking space on market days.
Woods said he believes it is well known that he owns the parcel and said Bjornsen, Vincent and Acree should have sought his permission to place signs there.
Acree and Vincent said they were not aware the signs were placed. Bjornsen said she thought she had permission.
Local Democratic advocate Richard Chasm said he placed the three signs on March 15 after receiving permission from the real estate agent listing the property. He confirmed Acree and Vincent were unaware he attached small signs for their campaigns to Bjornsen’s large sign.
A campaign sign for Roseburg Republican Tim Freeman, who’s giving up a seat in the state House to run for county commissioner, was already on the property and authorized by Woods.
Chasm said that he talked to Woods and took responsibility for placing the Democrats’ signs.
“I told him, ‘No offense meant. I’m sorry. I’m the one that did it. The sign is being taken apart and will be coming down and Barack Obama didn’t have anything to do with this,’” Chasm said.
Vincent said attacking Democrats in general was unwarranted.
“In this new hysterical political environment we find ourselves in, it seems we blame the entirety of this group or that group for some real or perceived grievance,” he said.
Vincent said his history as a property owner, real estate developer and Realtor should make clear he supports property rights. He said Woods’ real purpose was to drum up support for Freeman.
“This has nothing to do with property rights. It had nothing to do with anything other than a rant to sully somebody that’s running against his guy,” Vincent said.
Woods said that he reported the incident to Roseburg police as an illegal trespassing. His ad linked the incident to national politics.
“This demonstrates to me the total disregard the Democratic Party appears to have for our private property rights and our individual liberty. The same as O’Bama, Eric Holder, Pelosi, Reid and a myriad of other Democrats appear to me to have no respect for our laws or constitution,” the ad said.
Acree said the statements in Woods’ ads were unfair.
“I guess he didn’t realize that two of us, Mark Vincent and I, were not aware of what was going on,” she said.
Bjornsen said she wishes Woods had contacted her directly. Woods admitted he has never spoken with her.
“I don’t even know her. I don’t have a clue who she is,” he said.
Still, she said she was not angered by Woods’ ad and said he has a right to express his opinions.
“I think it’s all part of politics and campaigning and let the games begin,” said Bjornsen, who’s running in the May 20 Democratic primary against Kerry Atherton.
Bjornsen disagreed with Woods’ assertion that Democrats don’t care about property rights.
She pointed to her opposition to the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, which she said is based on concern companies will use eminent domain to obtain right-of-way from landowners.
Chasm took that argument to the next level, saying Republicans have done nothing to oppose the pipeline.
“What have the Republicans done? You want to get down to brass tacks what have they done? Nothing. The silence is deafening,” he said.
Freeman said he has no opinion about whether Democrats have less interest in property rights and said he was not involved in the flap over the Democrats’ signs. He said he makes “darn sure” every one of the 150 field signs and 1,000 yard signs he has posted around the county is there with the owner’s permission.
As for Woods’ ads, Freeman had this to say:
“I believe that entire situation’s covered under the First Amendment. It’s his right to say what he wants,” Freeman said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.