- "You are going to have hate, you are going to have pushback, you are going to have people who do not want Fort Bend to reflect the diversity," says Judge Juli Mathew, running for re-election.
Several candidates on both sides of the aisle, running for local office in Fort Bend County in Texas, including three Indian Americans, have had their campaign signs vandalized, defaced and stolen.
Judge Juli Mathew, running for re-election in County Court at Law No. 3, had her campaign signs stolen and vandalized, as did Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George and Surendran K. Pattel, a candidate for judge of the Texas 240th District Court.
Mathew shared photos of her vandalized campaign signs on social media. “What happened to integrity, sportsmanship, being fair,” wrote Mathew, the first Indian American woman elected to the bench in the U.S., and the first Asian American Judge in Fort Bend County. “We have had our signs box cut, stolen, and now spray painted. If you’re going to sit back this year and not vote, I strongly urge you to reconsider and get out. Your vote is your voice. If you’re not registered to vote, you have until October 11 to register. This just makes me work even harder.”
Speaking to American Kahani a few days after the incident, Mathew who is now in the “last stretch” of her campaign said the” sign destruction” for “unfortunate.” But at the same time, she said she’s aware that “there are going to be people who are not going to be fair, who don’t have the integrity needed to face all those obstacles that are common when you run for office.” Although she was “disheartened” to see it, she says that’s not going to stop me or anyone else from trying to do what we need to do to win again in 2022.”
Like Mathew, Pattel told American Kahani that he finds the situation not only “distressing, but “depressing and disheartening” as well. “As an immigrant American, I guess I had expected better from my fellow citizens.” Noting that those targeted are Democrats and are “easily identified as representing minorities, he informed that the prosecutor’s office is investigating, “and has stressed that vandalism of this nature — that is, defacing political signs — is indeed a crime.”
He also took to social media to share photos of the vandalized signs. “Fort Bend is better than this,” he wrote.
K.P. George, who is also running for re-election told the Houston Chronicle that he wants to “tell people to stop this criminal, childish activity — this is not who we are.” He also reported losing 20 of his 70 campaign signs.
Meanwhile, Fort Bend District Attorney Brian Middleton told the Houston Chronicle that “the volume of vandalized signs has been unusually high this election cycle.” She said “those responsible could face criminal prosecution and incarceration,” as tampering with political signs is a crime, according to state law.
Mathew doesn’t recall similar incidents happening in the last election cycle. “This is the first time in my race,” she said. I haven’t seen this before.” But she believes that since the majority of the candidates in Fort Bend County from the Democratic Party are people of color, “there is that part,” which she doesn’t think can be ignored.” But at the same time, she really wants to believe that “people are better than that.” She continues: “Most of us are running for re-election from 2018, so we know that people are definitely not like this. Because they have put us into office, and I believe that in 2022 the same will happen..”
Mathew and the others have taken the incident in stride. “You are going to have hate, you are going to have pushback, you are going to have people who do not want Fort Bend to reflect the diversity that it really has. We just have to move forward.”