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Coroner campaign heats up over yard signs

Published: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 2:38 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 7:08 a.m. CDT

A supporter of Democratic Kane County coroner candidate Tao Martinez claims he was bullied and intimidated by a supporter of Republican candidate Rob Russell. The Martinez supporter said the Russell supporter removed a Martinez campaign sign from his lawn, replacing it with a Russell sign.

Martinez and Russell are vying for the coroner position. The general election is Nov. 6.

Michael Knighton, of the 700 block of Gillette Avenue in Aurora, said he had a Martinez sign on the lawn of a house he rents from a family member of Loren Carrera, the chief deputy coroner.

Carrera's husband, Francisco, a retired state trooper, said he drove past the house about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, saw the Martinez sign and stopped.

"I got out of the car, pulled the sign out of the lawn and knocked on the door," Carrera said. "It's an old aluminum door, and it was loud. … I said, 'This property belongs to Loren and her family. Do not put a Tao Martinez sign on this lawn or the one next door' [also owned by his wife's family]. I just wanted to make sure he was clear about both."

Francisco Carrera said he was going to drive away, but he took a Russell sign out of his car and put it in place of the Martinez sign and added one to the next-door property as well.

Knighton said he saw things differently. He said he and his fiancee were watching a movie, and they had the door cracked open to let some air in when Carrera knocked.

"He knocked extremely hard and made me jump, and her," Knighton said. "He was standing there with my Martinez sign in his hand and said, 'Loren's family owns this property, and you are not allowed to have this sign on your yard.' I felt threatened. … I took the sign from him and closed the door. We looked each other and said, 'What just happened?' "

Knighton said he thought about it for a day, then filed a report with Aurora police. Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli said he could confirm there was a call at Knighton's address, but the report is not yet available.

Knighton said he is a Martinez supporter and has been helping the candidate out. He said he also knows Carrera because he has done construction work on properties that Carrera owns.

"I did not know this would be an issue," Knighton said. "I'm pretty upset about it. I don't want to see my family lose the home, but I do not want to be bullied like that, either."

Martinez was critical of Carrera's actions.

"What it comes down to, is this is not a proper behavior for a former police officer and not ethical to go through and intimidate somebody just because of a sign," Martinez said. "I have not known of anybody yanking Russell's signs to put mine down. … I would like them to be respectful of him as a candidate."

Russell said the Carreras have the right to decide what kind of sign they want in the front yard of property they own.

"I guess it's unforturnate that some of the attention is going toward thse shenanigans and these moot things and not towards who is most qualified for the job," Russell said. "This does not have anything to do with this election. ... If I was renting, I'd put the sign in the window. You can't stifle that speech."

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