The crudely-painted sign depicts a red, white and blue GOP elephant with his trunk up the skirt of a scared little girl and the word “Help!” coming from her mouth. In pink paint are the words, “Your vote matters.”
To Marion Stanford, the sign symbolized the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct in his past, and the backlash the Republican Party faces in the wake of the scandal.
To critics in the small town of Hamilton, it depicted pornography. Stanford told the Dallas Morning News that complaints to the police department resulted in the sign being confiscated Oct. 2.
“Here we have a political party that is using women,” Stanford told the Morning News. “I thought the sign represented what is going on now and we can’t just stand quiet. I wanted to tell people we could stop it with voting.”
One of Stanford’s biggest critics was Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who posted photos of the sign, along with other political signs in Stanford’s yard, on his Facebook page.
“This is in Hamilton, Texas, and is supposed to be Judge Kavanaugh’s young daughter,” Miller wrote about the sign. “Notice my opponent’s sign in the background. The Democrat sleaze knows NO bounds!”
Miller faces Democrat Kim Olson in the race for agriculture commissioner.
Stanford said the sign does not depict any specific person.
“That was not Judge Kavanaugh’s daughter,” she told the Morning News. “The cartoon was made last year by Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes, a Pulitzer Prize winner.”
Telnaes drew the cartoon in December after President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee endorsed Roy Moore, who was accused by multiple women of sexually assaulting them when they were minors, to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Moore lost the race to Democrat Doug Jones.
Several people who saw Miller’s post reacted negatively to Stanford’s sign, calling it pornography and her a pedophile. She told the newspaper that she was harassed by phone and on her Facebook page, which is now private.
Stanford told The Washington Post that there was nothing pornographic about her statement.
“I know what the symbolism was,” she told the Post. “I know what my motivations were.”
Some people called for her arrest. One man questioned the lack of an arrest on the Hamilton Police Department’s Facebook page.
“From news reports, someone in town put up some child porn posting it on the street, and while the police seized the sign, they are not charging anyone for the child pornography,” the man wrote. “This most abominable of crimes is apparently ignored in Hamilton by police even when they know it's happening.”
Another commenter described the department as “Nazi-like” and said its officers don’t believe in free speech.
“The U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech, especially political speech, means nothing to these goobers in a uniform,” the man wrote.
A Hamilton police officer did show up at her home, Stanford told the Post.
“It is pornography and you can’t display it,” Stanford said the officer told her. He gave her three options: take the sign down, refuse to remove it and get arrested or let him confiscate the sign.
She said she let him confiscate it.
Hamilton City Manager Pete Kampfer disputed Stanford’s version of what happened.
“It’s political season, and a citizen here placed a yard sign that featured a political animal taking an inappropriate position with a young child,” Kampfer told the Morning News. “A police member visited the owner’s home, and the owner asked the officer to take the sign.”
Stanford shared with the newspaper private Facebook messages between her and Miller. In them, she questioned whether she was really conversing with Miller and threatened to sue him because of the harassment she said his post about her sign stirred up.
“This is Sid,” he responded. “Bring it.”
A Miller campaign spokesman reiterated Miller’s position that the girl in the image -- which Stanford described as a “generic ladies room icon” -- was meant to represent Kavanaugh’s daughter.
“It was vulgar and disgusting and had no place in someone’s yard,” Todd Smith told the Morning News.
Miller’s political opponent also decried the image.
“Anyone who continues to share such an image that makes light of sexual assault is out of line and out of touch,” Olson said in a statement.