Ada County coroner candidate's sign turns heads

Some love it and some hate it, but Matthew Townsend says he's had only positive feedback.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comApril 18, 2014 

campaign, meridian, coroner, sign,

Matthew Townsend's campaign sign for coroner on Meridian Road.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

When he came up with the idea for his campaign signs a couple of months ago, Matthew Townsend III ran it by some friends.

"There was a couple people who said it might bring some negative attention," the 28-year-old candidate for Ada County coroner said.

"Everybody loves it so far," Townsend said of the 8-foot by 10-foot sign, which features the word "coroner" in dripping red paint.

Well, not everybody.

"When you're driving by, it looks ghoulish," said Michael Nersveen, a 49-year-old Meridian resident who noticed the sign while driving down Meridian Road on Sunday. He circled back around to take a closer look.

"I don't care what the rest of his politics are, that sign shows a serious lack of respect for the job and the lack of respect for the families of those that are being autopsied," Nersveen said.

This struck close to home for Nersveen, whose 20-year-old son, Robert, died last year when his motorcycle collided with a passenger car on Fairview Avenue in Boise. An autopsy was conducted.

Nersveen said Townsend's sign made him sick to his stomach.

"You want someone performing that who has respect for the job and for the families ... and understanding that it's very trying for them, and it's a very traumatic experience," he said.

The Ada County Elections Office said it hasn't received any complaints about that sign, or any others. One candidate did call to report that some of his signs disappeared, said JoMeta Spencer, supervisor for the office.

Spencer has been involved with county elections since the mid-1970s. She doesn't recall any significant brouhahas over signs.

"This is a new one," she said.

Townsend has put up only one sign so far. It's in the yard of his house in the 300 block of South Meridian Road. His strategy this campaign is to put out fewer - but higher-profile - signs.

"I'm not trying to offend anybody at all," Townsend said.

He said he thinks his experience managing restaurants has prepared him to run the Ada County Coroner's Office.

Townsend is one of three people running for county coroner in the Republican primary. The other candidates are Robert Karinen and Mike Chilton.

There are no other candidates, so barring a write-in in the fall, the Republican primary winner will become the next county coroner.

Townsend ran for Meridian City Council last fall. He decided to recycle one of the signs from that campaign for the coroner's race. He used black paint to cover the bottom of the sign, then used bright red paint for the word "coroner."

He said he intentionally sprayed the red paint so that it dripped, creating the appearance of dripping blood. He posted a photo of the sign on his Facebook page with the caption "DEAD SERIOUS."

The Facebook post got 21 "likes" and a half-dozen comments, including, "You got my vote. That's one campaign sign I would be happy to have in my yard."

That comment was posted by Michael Long, who also ran for Meridian City Council last fall. Neither Townsend nor Long won seats in the election, which drew 17 candidates for four positions.

Long told the Statesman on Thursday that he appreciated the novelty of Townsend's campaign sign, which he described as having "a touch of the macabre."

"I appreciate his sense of humor. But I also know when he does something, as far as a candidacy, he's serious about it," Long said. "I appreciate someone who doesn't take everything so seriously that they have to sterilize their entire existence."

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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