DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - We're just a month away from Diamondhead's first municipal primary elections, but you wouldn't know it looking around the new city.
Yard signs of any kind are not allowed under the Property Owners Association rules. And on top of that, Diamondhead, like most cities, does not allow political signs along the public rights of ways.
Many candidates say those rules are giving incumbents an un-fair advantage.
"We've got to have some kind of way to get our message out to the people," said John Fletcher.
Fletcher is running for Mayor of Diamondhead. He says the POA and the city rules on campaign signs are preventing him and other candidates from getting the exposure they need to win.
"You can't put them on the right a-ways, and the other one is telling you you can't put it in your yards. Well, neither one of them are completely violating the first amendment. But between the two of them, you've got no signs in Diamondhead. This is a great help to the incumbents because they already have name recognition," explained Fletcher.
"In the case of the covenants, residents who bought here voluntarily agreed to abide by the covenant," said POA President Marshall Kyger. "The covenant also requires the POA to enforce them, and the rules say no signs."
POA President Marshall Kyger says yard signs clutter the community and are often never picked up following an election and become trash. The city sent out a letter to all candidates saying political signs can be placed on private property, just not on public rights of ways.
"There needs to be a consolidated effort between the POA and the city to establish what's fair and then everybody needs to be treated equally," said Tommy Schafer.
Mayoral candidate Tommy Schafer says candidates face perhaps an even bigger disadvantage: Candidates are not allowed to go door to door campaigning.
"That's restricted. You can not go door to door. However, once again, during the incorporation effort, the POA and members of the POA board did go door to door with others in the incorporation effort to get people to sign the petition. That horse is out of the barn. How do you get it back in now?" Schafer asked.
Kyger said, "There are lots of ways for the candidates to get their message out. There are going to be three evenings of debates here at the Country Club. If they would park themselves in front of the grocery store, they're going to see everybody in town within a day or two.
Many of the candidates say they have already forked out a lot of money for campaign signs.
"I'm sure that if the city and the POA would sit down with each other, they could work out an agreement to where we could put signs up," Fletcher said.
It would take an 85-percent vote by the POA membership to change the covenant to allow yard signs and POA leaders say that's not likely to happen.