Showing where you stand might be bad for business

Although many business people in Washington County are willing to run for elected office, few think that business and politics are a good mix at the storefront level.

Residents don’t often see partisan signage at businesses during election season. Molly Varner, a former chair of the Washington County Democratic Party, said the reason is obvious.

“You could irritate your clientele,” she said. “I remember some displayed Obama signs during one of his elections, and the public was … not welcoming of that.”

Willa O’Neill, the current Democratic chair, said most businesses prefer to provide support in a less public way, through donations to their preferred party or sponsoring events.

“There are various businesses in town whose political affiliations are known when it comes to donations, but in their business life they remain less partisan,” she said. “I don’t know that we’ve had any requests for signs from businesses, but we do go to some about sponsoring events.”

Charles Seaman is an exception. At Seaman’s General Store in Vincent he has a prominent sign for Marietta Municipal Court Judge incumbent candidate Janet Dyar Welch. He said he’s not worried the sign will offend customers.

“A lot of people think that but, I don’t know, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I know her and I think she’s a good judge. Her brother asked me to do it, and I did it last election, too.”

Seaman said he isn’t showing favoritism, he’s just a strong believer in the political process.

“I’d put one up for (challenger Paul) Bertram if he asked me to,” he said.

Customers haven’t complained, he said, although in the past he’s found the most discussion over school levies.

“When you put up signs for school levies, you’ll get some comments about that,” he said.

Anita White, president of the Washington County Republican Women’s Club, said she doesn’t know of any specific businesses around town displaying partisan signs, although the Dime Bank building, owned by Promanco, has signs for Marietta City Council candidates Cindy Oxender and Cassidi Shoaf.

Shoaf, running for Marietta City Council as a Republican, said she had heard the Dime Bank owner allowed campaign signs and got permission to post her sign on the high-profile building. Apex Supply, she said, let her put a sign in their property right-of-way.

“I checked, and they said nobody ever asks, they just do it,” she said.

“We contacted some businesses, and they said, ‘No thank you,'” she said. “They said it might affect their clientele.”

Bill Gossett, owner of Cobbler John’s shoe and leather repair shop in the basement of the Dime Bank building, has displayed political signs from time to time but now has just one, an anti-Hillary Clinton sign he bought from a custom leather work artisan he knows, hanging inside the store.

“I just stuck it up there during the presidential election,” he said. “I try not to get real political. I don’t have a problem with people who have signs at their business, it’s what makes this country great — everyone can express their views on politics.

“I do business with people because I like to do business locally,” he said. “I don’t care, we can’t let things like that drive us apart. I don’t want to push my political views on people, I just want to repair their shoes so I can make a living.”

At a glance

Early voting in Washington County

¯Today and Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Monday through Nov. 3: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

¯ Nov. 4: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

¯ Nov. 5: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Nov. 6: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Location: Washington County Board of Elections office, 204 Davis Ave., Suite B

Information: washingtongov.org