Hand-Painted Signs Turn Heads In Florida Congressional Race

Oct 19, 2016

During election season in North Florida, voters can’t go far without tripping over one campaign sign or another. But this year, the art of one candidate in particular is standing out.

A hand-painted campaign sign for Democrat Walt Dartland, running in North Florida's Congressional District 2.
Credit Walt Dartland via twitter / https://twitter.com/walterdartland

On a busy intersection in politically engaged Tallahassee, campaign signs are as much a part of the landscape as the live oak trees. Some Panhandle voters may have noticed a different kind of sign this year. They’re hand-painted, with bold colors on a blank background, reading, "Walt Dartland, Congressional District 2". There are more than a hundred of these homemade signs scattered across the district, but they’re not from the democrat himself. Initially Dartland didn’t want campaign signs, but supporter Herb Shelton starting making them anyway.

"That’s what I did. I just went ahead and started doing that. And I know he wasn’t on board. But it was like I want this man to be my representative. Because he represents me," he said.

The North Florida Democrat won Shelton over. But Shelton figured his candidate could use a little help.

“This is the man for our area. This is what we need. We need somebody like this. And that’s why I was motivated to do these signs for him. And whether they were right or wrong, I just went ahead and put them out there. Because he didn’t have his own. And finally he got some of his own, but by that time I had already put out mine,” he said.

Shelton makes the signs in his backyard, using recycled materials from bygone campaigns, and leftover paint, even drafting his own Walt Dartland campaign slogans.

“I knew he would protect social security, so I had one that said protect social security. I had another one that said protect our water. I put another message on his sign that said trusted experience,” he said.

A hand-painted Walt Dartland sign on Tallahassee's Thomasville Road.
Credit Kate Payne / WFSU News

After seeing Shelton’s signs, fellow supporter Pat Kane-Prescott got involved as well. With her graphic arts experience, Kane-Prescott’s work is a bit more inspired.

“Right now I’m doing Day of the Dead, skeletons, I’ve done some caricatures of Walt. And I have noticed that I have had some, well at least one has disappeared. So I guess that’s a good thing. Somebody liked it enough to take it,” she said.

For Kane-Prescott, the signs reflect Dartland’s policies, like protecting the environment and keeping big money out of politics.

"If anything is translated of Walt in the signs, it's as I said it's that someone cared enough to paint the signs for this candidate," she said.

And she says that speaks for itself, asking who puts in this kind of work for another candidate?