John Raley apologizes for campaign signs on Prestige Properties rentals

Some renters in Iowa City saw John Raley for Iowa Senate signs appear in their yards — an action made by the owner of Prestige Properties, LLC and Raley himself. Following push back from the community, Raley took the signs down and apologized to Iowa City voters.


Braden Ernst

A John Raley sign is seen outside of an Iowa City home on Monday, April 25, 2022.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Some Iowa City residents who rent from Prestige Properties, LLC have noticed campaign signs from John Raley, a Democratic candidate running for Iowa Senate District 45, mysteriously appear in their yards without requesting them.

Hannah Gaertner, a UI junior marketing analytics major, lives in an apartment owned by Prestige Properties in Iowa City and said that she noticed a John Raley for Iowa Senate sign on her lawn, but never knew who put it there because neither her, her roommates, nor her neighbors put it up.

Gaertner said she wasn’t even aware who Raley was and wasn’t persuaded to learn more about his campaign even after the signs were put in her yard. She said property owners should limit what they put in their residents’ yards all together.

“Like the bedroom for rent signs are obviously fine but when it comes to expressing political beliefs and preferences, it shouldn’t be on their tenants’ land,” Gaertner said.

Raley is running against Iowa City City Councilor Janice Weiner in the Democratic primary for the Iowa City seat to replace retiring Sen. Joe Bolkcom. No Republican has filed for the election, meaning the winner of the primary will likely go on to represent the district.

Raley, who is friends with the Prestige Properties owner, said they worked together to raise awareness for his campaign but when the efforts received push back from some tenants and community members, he and his campaign workers decided to take the signs down.

Raley said he thought the signs were a good way to save money rather than sending letters too all the voters in the county. He said the campaign could have gone in a direction, but he characterized the move as advertising.

“The intent was okay, but if there’s anybody that was concerned, maybe we should be better listeners to see what those concerns might be,” Raley said.

Following the pushback, Raley posted to his Facebook page a message to the voters in his area saying that he misread the situation and how the campaign signs may impact some community members. He said that the community needs a leader who is willing to acknowledge when they have made a mistake.

Another renter from Prestige Properties, Jared Ness, a senior business analytics and marketing major, said he doesn’t like the fact that the signs were put up in his yard because to anyone walking by campaign signs are intended to be put up by supporters.

“Like in theory, he [the owner of Prestige Properties] owns it, so maybe he can do what he wants. But I also feel like those signs are a representation of who’s living there currently, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect how we feel,” Ness said.

Ness said he didn’t know about the campaign before seeing the signs, but he was more interested in learning about the race to know what the campaign was about.

Prestige Properties was unavailable for comment.

University of Iowa Law Professor Derek Muller said while most landlords or apartment companies don’t typically put campaign signs on their tenants’ lawns, they are in their legal right to do so because they own the land.

Muller said the campaign signs wouldn’t be a concern with election law so much as tenant-property law, but no rules are being broken because the tenants are free to take them down. He said the issue was generally the nature of politics.

“Doing any sort of volunteering to get out the vote and you know, knock on doors and put up signs and hand out flyers, is the kind of activity that’s considered sort of pure political expression and typically not going to be subject to some kind of extensive scrutiny,” Muller said.

Muller said spreading the word about causes that they care about isn’t bad for property owners to do, but it can be bad politics to put signs up on tenants’ lawns that they know wouldn’t object in fear of being uncomfortable.

Ness said because he and his roommates feared repercussions like a loss in a deposit, they didn’t want to say anything about the signs that were put in their lawn.

While corporations typically cannot contribute, Muller said, there is an exception under Iowa code for the placement of campaign signs permitted under 68A.406. Which means corporations, like Prestige Properties, LLC, can do so.

Iowa Code 68A.406 says campaign signs may be placed with the permission of the property owner and this includes residential property and property leased for residential purposes.

“Now, the last thing we need is people in the Democratic Party, having arguments about, you know, the way that we’re doing things,” Raley said. “We’re all on the same page. We need to be advocates of constituents, and that’s what I’m doing.”