In fraught political moment, Kanye 2020 signs bring a laugh in Anchorage

A Kanye 2020 sign at O’Malley and Old Seward Highway on a state construction lot. The lower sign was graffitied and shortly thereafter, another sign appeared on top of it. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Mysterious campaign signs have been popping up around Alaska for a well-known presidential candidate. But the candidate himself won’t be on the ballot.

“I’ma let you finish, but Kanye West is not on the ballot in Alaska,” is how the Alaska Division of Elections responded on Twitter to photos of the 4′-by-8′ signs in Anchorage.

The tweet is a reference to West’s famous 2009 VMA moment, when the musician and entrepreneur interrupted singer Taylor Swift in the middle of her acceptance speech.

Kanye announced he was running for president this July, but he’s already missed filing deadlines in many states including Alaska. And he has since contradicted himself about whether he is running, though that hasn’t stopped election officials in at least a handful of states from confirming he’ll be on the ballot, according to media reports.

But someone is spending a moderate amount of money on the signs, which could cost anywhere from about $50 to a couple hundred dollars, depending on where they’re printed and their design.

“Whoever’s doing it has a little spare cash laying around,” said political blogger Jeff Landfield.

He first heard of the signs after a columnist for his blog, the Alaska Landmine, spotted them. Since then he’s been trying to figure out who is doing it, but so far, he’s been stumped because it’s hard to find any clues based on their production or location. Most of them are in public rights-of-way, next to other political signs.

“Maybe they just see the other signs there and that’s where they go. Who knows? But there doesn’t seem to be any real pattern,” he said.

The signs and their bases, which are made from two-by-fours spray-painted gold, do require time and a sense of humor. Some people have suggested it was Landfield himself, though he denies it.

Shan Linde owns a coffee shack on a strip of land between A and C Streets near 36th, where one of the most visible signs stands. He says he appreciates the joke.

A Kanye 2020 sign hanging on the Service High School foot bridge on Sept. 10, 2020 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

“I like Kanye. I watch Kardashians. I watch all that. [He’s a] good fashion designer, smart guy. You know, I like that. [He’s] motivated, mentally ill, but takes care of his business,” he said.

But the sign — Linde doesn’t know where it came from. He came home one weekend to find it there. He said people use the lot like an easement even though it’s private property, and sometimes people put up inappropriate signs — or just too many — and he’s forced to take them down.

There’s speculation that Kanye’s presidential campaign, which was later canceled by Kanye himself, is actually an elaborate ruse designed to siphon votes from the Democratic nominee Joe Biden. That argument has been bolstered by recent reports that high-level Trump officials have met with Kanye and that other Trump supporters have pushed to get him listed on the ballot in certain swing states. But in Alaska with its three electoral votes? Landfield said that’s unlikely.

“People don’t really campaign [here], we’re not really worth it. And we’re a solid red state,” he said. Recent polling puts Trump ahead in Alaska by about six percentage points.

A more likely culprit:a prankster. Landfield said that the signs speak to the fraught political and social moment we’re living in, which sometimes calls for a joke.

“You laugh or cry,” he said. “Maybe whoever did it chose to laugh.”

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