'LETS GO BRANDON' Christmas lights spark battle with Sarasota homeowner's association

Article Courtesy of  The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
By Zac Anderson

Published January 5, 2021


Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and goodwill to others.

Spelling out "LETS GO BRANDON" in lighted letters on a balcony of his house brought plenty of joy to Martin Hyde, a Sarasota Republican running for Congress. It didn't generate goodwill in his neighborhood, though.

Now Hyde is locked in a standoff with his homeowner's association, which sent him a "friendly reminder" that signs aren't permitted and then dangled the possibility of a $150-a-day fine if he doesn't comply.

Conservatives are using the phrase "Let's Go Brandon" as a substitute for "(expletive) Joe Biden." Some might wonder if a light display implying a vulgarity is in keeping with the spirit of a religious holiday, but Hyde isn't worried about that.

“It’s fully in keeping with my personality and my campaign," Hyde said. "Anybody who doesn’t like it, it’s one street... don’t come.”

Hyde has embraced "Let's Go Brandon" as he tries to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan from the right. He had bumper stickers and shirts made with the phrase on them.

Known for being provocative and outspoken, Hyde hired Roger Stone, a famous GOP provocateur, as a campaign consultant. So it may not be surprising that his Christmas display also would veer into the realm of provocation.

“Did I know it was provocative? Absolutely," Hyde said. "Did I expect it to take on this level? No.”

The Christmas display could even be viewed as a calculated effort to get attention for his campaign, something Hyde denies, even as he continues to escalate the situation.

Rather than take down the lighted lettering, Hyde is planning to unveil an even bigger display Wednesday during an event at his house. He's going to park his campaign bus outside and play music while offering free pizza, beer and wine.

Lighted lettering at the home of Sarasota resident Martin Hyde spells out "LETS GO BRANDON." Conservatives use the phrase as code for "(expletive) Joe Biden." Hyde is running for Congress. His homeowner's association is asking him to take down the lettering or risk a fine.


“When you poke the bear, there are outcomes and circumstances," Hyde said.


Hyde disputes that his lighted letters are a sign, saying they are Christmas lights. He bought the letters with lights embedded in them individually on Amazon and put them together to spell "LETS GO BRANDON." The letters are nine inches tall and about an inch deep. Hyde placed them on the railing of a second story balcony that faces the street.

“They are individual letters that light up, that’s lights where I come from," he said.

Even if the combined letters are viewed as a sign, Hyde said the homeowner's association has been selectively enforcing such rules and simply is targeting the "LETS GO BRANDON" display because they dislike it. Hyde lives in the Homes of Laurel Park, a neighborhood near downtown Sarasota, which is a liberal-leaning area.

"If I put a message up there they liked, they’d be slapping me on the back," Hyde said, adding: "It’s got everything to do with they don’t like what it says."

Homes of Laurel Park Homeowner's Association president John Habbert said the dispute has "nothing to do with politics."

"This is a simple contract issue," Habbert said in an email.

"When he purchased his house, Mr. Hyde signed documents stating that he would abide by all HOA rules -- including no signs other than house numbers or For Sale notices," Habbert continued. "Other residents have been asked to remove signs and have complied without any problems, but Mr. Hyde refuses to do so."

Hyde began displaying the letters on Dec. 12 and received an email on Dec. 16 with an attached letter from Dellcor Management, the property management company for his homeowner's association.

The letter was sent on behalf of the association's board of directors. It highlights the homeowner's association rule prohibiting most signs.

"Please take this notice as a friendly reminder; it is not the intention of the Board of Directors or management to create an adversarial relationship with the members of the Association," the letter reads, before going on to note that the association has the authority to issue fines of "up to $150 per day until the violation ceases."

"The Association would prefer not to fine unit owners and would anticipate that once owners are made aware of the violation, they would make every effort to correct it," the letter continues. "Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter."

Hyde said he's willing to risk being fined.

“They may well fine me $150 a day. It’s not really a terrible concern to me," he said. "I will take it down when the holidays are over. I’ll take it down when it suits me.”