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In East Lyme, Trump supporters call out anonymous comment on their lawn signs

East Lyme — Wednesday’s mail brought much the Herdes could have done without.

The absentee ballot applications were the least of it.

It was the unsigned card that arrived in an envelope addressed “To my Neighbor” that really upset them. The card, neatly printed by hand, took them to task for displaying yard signs signaling support for President Donald Trump’s reelection.

The Herdes — Lori and John — had placed the signs last Friday, a “Trump/Pence” placard on the front lawn of their Chesterfield Road home and another that reads “Trump/Make America Great Again!” next to their mailbox at the street.

In an interview Friday, they said they considered the card a “personal attack” on their First Amendment right to express support for the candidate of their choice without being harassed about it.

“I saw your yard sign on the anniversary of 9/11,” the card begins.

The writer references a Trump interview that day in 2001, in which the future president, “as the Twin Towers burned and 2,700 people died,” bragged that he would now own “the tallest building in NYC.”

“No sympathy for the victims and their families,” the writer continues. “Now he is the President and 190,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 under his leadership. No sympathy for them either and no empathy for our Country."

“Your sign is an insult to their memory.”

John Herde, 54, said his first reaction was sadness that someone could be so disdainful of his constitutional rights.

“We’re in the minority here, as Trump supporters, but we respect everybody’s opinion,” he said. “It’s shameless is what it is. This is bullying — cowardly bullying at that. ... It is what it is.”

Registered Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016, the Herdes said they have plenty of Democrats in their families, including Lori’s father, who she said can’t wait to cast his ballot for Joe Biden.

As of last October, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in town, 4,288 to 3,200, while unaffiliated voters numbered 5,859, according to data on the website of the Secretary of the State’s Office. Another 151 voters were registered with minor parties.

Lori, 50, a senior director of service excellence for a data company, said she was a Democrat herself up until about 11 years ago, when she “saw what Democrats were doing to our country.”

“I become more conservative,” she said. “I like what the Republicans represent. Democrats want everything for free. You have to work for everything in life.”

She said she was “so beside myself” when she read the card, adding, “I was in awe that someone would make those connections and say my sign is an insult to people who died. ... I knew someone who died on 9/11.”

She said COVID-19 has touched everyone and that Trump has done the best he can to deal with it.

“Does he have the best political etiquette all the time? No. He runs the country like it’s a business,” she said. “He’s tough. I’m a corporate person and I appreciate that.”

The Herdes said they thought it was important they speak out about the card.

“I wanted to let people know they shouldn’t do this,” Lori said. “It just shouldn’t be. It’s a form of harassment.”

They have no idea who mailed the card and little interest in finding out.

“That’s not important,” said John, a medical sales consultant. “What’s more important is how people respond to this sort of thing. Why not sit down and have a healthy debate, with mutual respect. If we disagree, we can agree to disagree. ... Is Trump the perfect candidate? By no means, but in my opinion, he is clearly the better choice.”

As for the absentee ballot applications, the Herdes won’t be returning them.

“I’m very concerned they’re supplying them to everybody,” Lori said. “We did not ask for them, and our nation is not prepared for them. There’s no reason you can’t go to the polls."

“We’re absolutely voting — in person.”


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