State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat running for Congress in the 47th District, fired a campaign worker Tuesday afternoon who was accused of removing lawn signs for his Republican opponent, Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong.
Stanton Mayor Pro Tem David Shawver said he witnessed the alleged election morning sign-taking and reported the information to authorities.
Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino confirmed that deputies took a theft report that alleged a woman removed three DeLong signs, valued at $4 each, and replaced them with Lowenthal lawn signs.
Shawver said he was taking his grandchildren to school about 9:20 a.m. when he saw the woman taking the DeLong signs and putting them in the trunk of the black Saab she was driving. The DeLong campaign e-mailed to reporters Shawver's report.
``I said, `Please put them back.' I even used the word please,'' Shawver said, adding that the woman responded with an expletive, got in the car and sped off through the residential neighborhood.
``I think she was embarrassed and overreacted,'' Shawver said.
Shawver called DeLong representatives, who emailed him a photo of one of Lowenthal's campaign workers.
``Unless she has a twin, it's her,'' Shawver said.
Mike Shimpock, a Lowenthal campaign consultant, said the woman is a ``field organizer, a functionary in the field.'' Shimpock said he doubted Shawver's account, but, ``if it's true, she's fired. We don't condone it, but this sounds like last-minute shenanigans and voters should vote what they believe.''
Lowenthal issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that identified the lawn sign accused as Stephanie Wells.
He said Wells ``no longer works for this campaign. She was terminated as of 2 p.m. this afternoon, as soon as we learned about the allegations against her. While these remain allegations, I want to be perfectly clear that neither I, nor my campaign, will condone or tolerate such unacceptable behavior. This incident does not reflect my values for how campaigns should be conducted.''
Wells could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Shawver said that if the woman had put the signs back, he would have dropped the matter.
``Everyone I know has taken a sign over the years or moved them around. It's human nature,'' he said with a laugh. ``But if you get caught, you say, `OK, you caught me,' and put them back.''
Shawver said he was most concerned about the way the woman drove after the confrontation.
``She drove off in a residential area at 100 miles per hour,'' Shawver alleged. ``She could have hit somebody and that's really scary. Over a sign you're going to kill somebody? It's not worth it.''
The recently redrawn congressional district includes Lakewood, Signal Hill and parts of Long Beach in Los Angeles County, and Cypress, Garden Grove, Westminster, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and Stanton in Orange County.
- City News Service and Nancy Wride contributed to this report.