TURLOCK (CBS13) — Campaign signs for the city’s mayor have been tagged with a gay slur.
Turlock Police are investigating the incident involving spray painting f– on signs supporting Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth as a hate crime.
Residents say there’s no place for this in their town.
“It’s just crazy that something like that would happen today,” said Krissa Barnes. “It’s really insane!”
Soiseth decided to come out as a gay man earlier this year but was shocked to learn his campaign signs were tagged with a three-letter homophobic slur in orange spray paint.
“It’s a very charged word and it does hurt,” Soiseth said. “So I might be mayor, but I’m still a human being.”
Soiseth is running for a second term as mayor of Turlock after being elected for a four-year term in 2014. He learned about the vandalism Thursday morning, after receiving several calls and messages from his supporters.
“I knew initially that this was from a fraction of a percent of Turlock,” the mayor said. “This doesn’t represent the entire community.”
Barnes moved from Chicago to Turlock seven years ago.
“There is a little bit of a small town mindset that might not be quite as open,” she said. “There’s definitely segregation still happening in this city. I feel like you could draw a line down the middle of it”
CBS13 asked Ramouna Yaco if she thought her neighbors were closed-minded.
“Not necessarily in this town,” she said. “I wouldn’t put down Turlock, there’s no way!”
But she and Efren Avila agree: there’s a difference between disagreeing with a politician and disrespecting him.
“It’s kind of sad because everybody has the right to be whatever they are,” Avila said.
One of the mayor’s opponents, Brad Bates, wrote on Facebook: “… no one involved in any way with my campaign has any involvement or awareness of this…”
And while Soiseth doesn’t think his opponents are personally responsible, he blames name-calling and the negative tone of the campaign.
“I think that negativity does allow some people to feel emboldened to say things like this,” he said.
Soiseth told CBS13 regardless of whether or not the police find out who vandalized his signs, he won’t he won’t let this incident change his positive outlook on the campaign.