Here among the manicured lawns and scenes of suburban serenity, two Farmers Branch neighbors wage a war of words.
They have barely spoken to each other. They’re letting their signs do the talking.
“Traitors” reads one sign, with an arrow pointing like an accusing finger across the street. There, on a corner lot, a neighbor has sprinkled yard signs for Trump-Pence 2020 and other Republicans running in local races.
The campaign between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden can be judged by election polls, debates, advertising, or even who generates the most clicks on Facebook. But way below the media radar, at street level, politics can gyrate crazily from house to house and neighbor to neighbor.
On local neighborhood forums, like NextDoor, homeowners have reported their signs getting stolen -- a perennial problem during election season.
But in a clear demonstration of the escalating tensions brought on by this year’s heated presidential election, someone vandalized political signs with spray paint along upscale Northaven Road in North Dallas.
In one of the yards, several Democratic campaign signs were sprayed with red paint about a week ago, including one touting Biden-Harris for president and another endorsing incumbent Rep. Colin Allred, a Democrat, for Congress. Several other houses with Biden-Harris signs were hit the same way on the street.
“The audacity of someone going onto someone’s yard and spray painting their campaign signs -- it’s a byproduct of the age we live in,” said Bobby Abtahi, a lawyer and civic leader, who posted a photo of one of the yards with defaced signs on Twitter.
Gaylene Lonergan, the homeowner with the spray-painted signs, said she’s a former Republican who has voted for Democratic candidates in recent years. She decided to keep the spray-painted signs out in her yard “to make a statement,” she said.
“Some people are against free speech,” said Lonergan, a real estate attorney.
She blames the negative tone of politics these days.
“It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible,” Lonergan said.
Yard sign feud
Perhaps nowhere else in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is that angry tone more clearly crystallized than at this intersection in Farmers Branch, a leafy suburb known as “City in a Park,” for its 28 parks in only 12 square miles. The town of 40,000 sits on the northwest shoulder of Dallas County, far from the street protests and turmoil seen in many cities across the country in the wake of several high-profile killings of Black people by police.
But those well-publicized protests and a national political climate as volatile as the wildfires out west have cast a sinister shadow over this little turf battle just a stone’s throw from the exclusive Brookhaven Country Club.
While the neighbor with the Trump signs was friendly and willing to talk to a reporter, he didn’t want his name to appear in the story. His wife, he explained, feared that if they were identified publicly, the group known as antifa would “burn down our house.”
Antifa, a loosely coordinated national movement that purports to be against fascism, has increasingly become the boogeyman for right-leaning groups and media -- as well as for at least one resident of Farmers Branch.
Across the street, where Biden-Harris signs hang in every front-facing window of her ranch home, Brenda Drevicky said she’d be happy to talk.
She acknowledges that there’s no love lost between her and her neighbor with the Trump signs.
In mid-August, after California’s Democratic senator, Kamala Harris, was picked as Biden’s running mate, Drevicky put up a Biden-Harris sign in her yard. That’s when her neighbor installed another Trump sign on a fence “facing our front door,” she said.
She substituted the name “Drumpf” for Trump, preferring to use the president’s ancestral German name.
“When he put up the Drumpf-Pence sign facing us, I put up a handmade sign that he’s a traitor,” she said of Trump. “To me he is colluding with Russia and not taking care of the people of the United States,” echoing the charges frequently expressed by Democrats.
As if to reinforce his patriotism, her neighbor attached an American flag to his fence next to another sign that reads, Proud Marine Veteran. But even the way he displayed the flag rankled Drevicky.
She accused her neighbor of mistreating the flag by stapling it to his fence. And of course, she planted another homemade sign on her lawn that reads: “Disrespecting U.S. Flag.”
Had her neighbor been familiar with flag etiquette, he would know that the American flag should not be fastened in a way that damages it, such as with nails or staples, she said.
Drevicky said she learned flag etiquette in part from her father who was a World War II veteran. Her parents were Democrats who talked fondly of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She’s been a lifelong Democrat and for many years has placed political signs in her yard and windows. She’s also participated in several protest demonstrations, including one against the Vietnam War where she marched while pushing her baby in a stroller.
She did not specifically rule out ever being friends with a neighbor who was a Trump supporter, but she wouldn’t hesitate to probe their political views, she said.
“I think I would try to find out why they would still support someone who doesn’t deserve any respect,” she said.
Some believe heightened tensions over the presidential campaign is likely the reason some neighborhoods are seeing fewer political signs.
Bob Noyes, president of the Walnut Hill Homeowners Association and a lifelong northwest Dallas resident, said he thinks some people are afraid to put signs up in their yards.
"There are people I have heard say ‘I’m not going to put a sign out in my yard. I don’t want anybody fussing at me,’ " said Noyes, who doesn’t display political signs because of his position as a neighborhood representative.
That’s definitely the case in Oak Cliff, where Biden signs are abundant, said Robert Miller, president of Kessler Neighbors United.
“I think there are a lot of Republicans in our neighborhood who won’t put a Trump sign in front of their house,” because it might alienate them from their neighbors, Miller said.
For one Trump supporter in East Dallas, putting up signs for her candidate was her way of boldly coming out of the shadows in a neighborhood full of Biden backers.
Candace Richerson looked at the neighbors to her right and left with Biden signs in their yards and decided she needed to represent her candidate. Four weeks ago, she got several signs from a nearby Republican office and put them in her yard. She also bought on Amazon the large flag hanging in front of her house.
She gets along with her neighbors, even the ones with Biden signs.
"We all know each other,' she said. “We sit out in the front yard, we drink wine and hang out,” she said.
“We just don’t talk about that,” she said, referring to the election.
Rob Henry is one of those neighbors with Biden signs in his yard. “We’ve never talked politics with her -- ever,” he confirmed.
That said, he has no problems with his Republican neighbors. "Personally, we get along great,' he said.
The hyper-partisanship might inhibit some from showing their true colors, but he felt it’s important to publicize his beliefs more than ever, Henry said.
“I think in the current climate, it’s more important than in previous years to be more vocal about your opinions,” said Henry, an in-house counsel for a local company.
Still, the fact that politics seems so inflammatory right now can make it difficult to do something as simple and time-honored as planting a political sign in the front yard -- especially for those doing it for the first time.
“Not going to lie, I was scared to death when I put the stuff up,” said Richerson, who works as a chief finance officer for a local company. “Then I thought, it’s freedom of speech. It’s America,” she said.
“This is the first time I have ever put political signs out. It is silent no more,” she said.
Why did she decide to take the leap this year?
“I think we live in ‘Crazy Town’ right now,” Richerson said.
She was quick to add: “I’m not saying my neighbors are crazy. I think these are crazy times all around for everyone.”