Thousands of drivers headed to work and school or to grab a bite to eat along a major Center Grove area road saw the sign — it was hard to miss.
Big letters spray-painted across the top of the roughly 20-foot, homemade sign told Christine Hogue’s message: Vote no to Clark. That sign was propped up next to Hogue as she sat in a lawn chair at the northeast corner of State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road for most of Wednesday. The location was her second choice that day, since she already had been asked to leave another property at an intersection farther south on State Road 135.
The property where Hogue set up with her sign is owned by the Indiana Department of Transportation, and she’s not legally allowed to trespass on property owned by someone. But the Greenwood Police Department did not receive any complaints from a property owner, and police do not have the ability to kick her off private property, nor would they want to infringe on her right to freedom of speech, assistant police chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
The sign made of plastic pipes and a plastic canvas didn’t break any rules; but because it’s political, she can display the sign for only the 31 days leading into the May 6 primary, according to Greenwood’s community development services department. But the sign seen by thousands of motorists Wednesday was a clear indication that campaign season is here.
Hogue was urging residents not to vote for candidate Marla Clark, who along with deputy prosecutor Joe Villanueva is running for the Republican nomination for the new Superior Court 4 judge position.
Clark, who is Johnson County juvenile court magistrate, ruled on a custody case involving Hogue and her granddaughter in September. Hogue said she disagreed with how Clark ruled in the case.
Many people glanced her direction trying to read the sign and an occasional passer-by honked.
By the lunch hour Clark had received several text messages and phone calls from friends telling her about the sign. Some people even sent a photo, Clark said.
As Johnson County juvenile court magistrate, Clark said, she expects people will disagree with the job she has done.
“I’ve been in a judicial office for nine years, and my days are filled with making difficult decisions,” Clark said. “There are two sides to every case, and usually one side is typically disappointed.”
Villanueva saw a picture of the protest Wednesday afternoon and said there could have been better avenues for Hogue to voice her discontent, such as writing a letter to the editor. But he also realizes running for political office brings a different level of expectations.
“I think as public officials you’re fair game for what you do in your capacity in that position,” Villanueva said. “I don’t necessarily agree with this method, but I will defend anyone’s right to free speech, even if it’s something against me.”
Clark could not comment on the case involving Hogue because it is a juvenile case, meaning rules do not allow her to discuss the case because it involves a child, plus the ruling has been appealed. Clark does not have any plans to approach Hogue because, if the appeal were granted, the case would return to her court, she said.
Hogue approached Clark at the Johnson County fair last year, with her granddaughter at her side. Hogue was not confrontational but wanted to discuss the case. The case had not been ruled upon at that time, so the two did not have a conversation, Clark said.
People frequently come up to her away from work, sometimes with a concern or complaint, Clark said. A worker at a fast-food restaurant in Franklin thanked her for helping turn his life around after sending him to prison, she said.
Villanueva said no one associated with his campaign had anything to do with organizing Hogue’s protest.