Venton Hill-Jones, an election judge presiding over Dallas’ District 4 race, called the police yesterday alleging City Council candidate Johnny Aguinaga had threatened him. Aguinaga is running for the District 4 council seat.
The dispute began when Jones realized one of Aguinaga’s campaign signs was posted on someone’s property without permission, he contends. When Jones pulled up to his house Tuesday, he found a big campaign sign in the lot next door. It read, “Vote for Johnny Aguinaga. Be the change.”
An older woman in the neighborhood owns the lot. Jones and his husband pay to help her maintain it every couple of weeks. Jones reached out to her and found out Aguinaga hadn’t asked to put his sign on the property. The property owner, who didn't want to be named, confirmed Aguinaga did not have permission to post his signs on the property.
“I knew it wasn’t authorized because there’s really no contact information to get a hold of her. So, I took it down and called her,” Jones said.
Afterward, he sent Aguinaga a Facebook message to let him know.
“Hey there Johnny. There was a sign on the lot next to my home that I had to take down because it was not authorized,” Jones said in his message. “You are more than welcome to come recover it, but it cannot stay where it was placed.”
He added that he hopes Aguinaga and other candidates are getting proper permission when posting campaign materials.
In response, Aguinaga told Jones, “[M]y cousin paid the guys on that land $40 to [put] it up.”
Jones told Aguinaga that a man doesn’t own the property and that the sign would be thrown away if he didn’t pick it up by the end of the week.
Aguinaga said: “You need to [put] it back or I’ll have my cousin go deal with you. He carries heat too. He likes trouble like you.”
“Excuse me,” Jones replied.
“I’ll let him know this ASAP,” Aguinaga wrote. “I’ll let him know you live next door.”
Jones told Aguinaga that the sign wasn’t going back up and that he’d also be reporting the incident to the elections department.
“I immediately stopped the conversation,” Jones told the Observer.
He posted screenshots of the conversation on his Facebook profile and in the group Reform Dallas and called the police.
DPD confirmed officers visited with Jones after he called them. In an email, the department said, “According to the officers’ miscellaneous incident report, they met an individual who explained the exchange of words with a person regarding a sign in a vacant lot. The individual described the incident to the officers that did not meet that of a criminal offense.”
Jones said he’s not sure why it escalated the way it did. “The reason I posted it is because with everything going on right now, I don’t take anything that people say for granted,” he said referring to the insurrection at the Capitol and recent mass shootings. “That’s just something I don’t play with.”
After he pulled up the first sign, Jones and his husband went out for dinner. When they came back, they found more, smaller, Aguinaga campaign signs.
Jones said he didn’t know much about Aguinaga outside of local politics. The candidate was walking blocks in the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago and asked about the lot.
“Outside of that, there is no relationship, which is why I’m so dumbfounded that something like that would be said because the thing is we don’t even have the relationship for that to even be a joke,” Jones said.
Aguinaga said he didn’t want to comment on the record about this. However, moderators of the group Reform Dallas unmuted him so he could respond to Jones’ post. He was previously muted for doxxing one of the group’s moderators, one of them said.
Initially, Aguinaga responded like this: “You have created a crime by stealing my sign. It is illegal to steal, willfully deface, mutilate or destroy any campaign yard sign on private property. The crime is punishable by a fine up to $2,500, up to a year in jail or a combination of both. YOU HAVE TILL 8AM TO PUT IT BACK OR FACE STATE LAW ON STEALING CAMPAIGN SIGNS. WE HAVE PERMISSION LIKE I TOLD YOU. 8 a.m. .... Times ticking…”
Then, he began to backpedal, trying to write the situation off as a misunderstanding. “The guy Venton, dude came from a shooting range and goes directly to my political sign and tears it up,” Aguinaga wrote. Jones didn’t tear up his sign, though.
“I was not going to go knock on his door,” Aguinaga continued. “Gun toters are always with anger rage. I don't carry heat. I'll rather call someone to go knock that is also licensed to carry. It just came off wrong.” He blames the “misunderstanding” on his South Oak Cliff High School education. “Just a miscommunication and misunderstanding mixed with politics,” Aguinaga said.
He claims he did have permission to post his sign on the lot, sharing an image of his team at the property owner’s house. In the photo, three other people can be seen.
After speaking with his neighbor, Jones found out that Aguinaga paid the property owner’s relatives $100 to let him post the sign. Jones said Aguinaga told the relatives he knew the property owner.
Jones said Aguinaga’s rhetoric is emblematic of what the country saw under four years of former President Donald Trump’s administration. “It’s really a testament of the consequences of the last four years and what it’s done to our country,” he said.
The city’s election department told Jones to report the incident to the Texas Elections Commission and the city secretary, he said. “I think it’s important to really make sure that we seriously look at who we’ve got running for these offices,” he said.
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