Commissioner's Son Apologizes After Setting Democrat's Campaign Sign On Fire

Posted at 5:14 PM, Oct 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-20 19:29:12-04

The Wilson County campaign for House District 57 has verged on nasty as supporters for each candidate have clashed.

Thursday it hit a fever pitch when one of the candidate's signs went up in flames

The picture of what happened was posted on Instagram. It showed a teen posing with a thumbs up behind Democrat Trisha Farmer's sign on fire.

"To see a photo this morning of my signs being burned, that's frustrating as a candidate," Farmer said. "I'm trying to focus on issues, and we just have these kind of games going on in the background."

The picture was posted by the son of Republican Mt. Juliet Commissioner Ray Justice, with the caption "How we feel about Trisha farmer."

"I wouldn't want one of my campaign signs done this way, and I'm not going to tolerate it," said Justice in an interview with NewsChannel 5 shortly after he learned about what happened.

Justice said he's appalled by the actions of his 17-year-old son. He's clashed with Farmer over her signs in the past, after the city of Mt. Juliet removed many of them citing a temporary sign ordinance.

"My stance as a parent supersedes my political views," Justice said. Thursday he brought his son to where Farmer was campaigning.

"I'm embarrassed, I'm mortified, and he's going to pay for it," Justice told Farmer before calling his son over. 

"I apologize," Justice's son said, looking at Farmer. "You know, I found them [the signs] in the trash. I didn't mean to cause any - I was stupid, I'm sorry."

Farmer shook his hand and accepted the apology before he handed her a few bills to cover the damage.

"Thank you," she said. "I'll count it as a contribution to my campaign."

In a very contentious race between Trisha Farmer and incumbent Susan Lynn, both Republicans and Democrats agreed the sign burning crossed a line.

Rep. Lynn said she never condones any of her supporters touching another candidate's signs. 

"The father of the youth called me, and he was very, very apologetic for his son's actions," Lynn wrote in an email to NewsChannel 5. "I do not support or condone vandalism in any form. My campaign volunteers are instructed to never touch other candidates’ signs – not even to straighten-up the sign of a candidate with whom we ideologically agree. Many of my signs are missing and have been vandalized recently as well, but this happens every election year and we just take it in stride. I am sure this young person has learned a very valuable lesson."

Was the apology from father and son sincere? Farmer said she isn't sure.

"I feel that was a convenient apology, but I accept it. I'm not going to have anyone arrested," she said.

Now she, Justice, and Lynn all turn back to what's at stake: an election where they are all on the ballot.