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Essential California: The former filmmaker who bankrolled a militia-backed recall

Two men in suits holding wine glasses on a patio
Reverge Anselmo, left, with friend and retired Marine Col. Tim Geraghty in 2012.
(Greg Barnette / Record Searchlight)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, March 17. I’m Laura J. Nelson, filling in for Justin Ray.

Last month, voters in rural Shasta County shocked the California political establishment by recalling a Republican county supervisor, a former police chief, who was accused of being just not conservative enough.

California has seen a wave of recall efforts in local and state offices since the pandemic began, including last year’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom and the ouster in February of three San Francisco school board members.

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But the Shasta County election had something new: the backing of a “quixotic Connecticut-bred cowboy with a grudge and bottomless pockets with which to fund his political revenge,” writes my colleague Jessica Garrison.

Reverge Anselmo, the son of the billionaire who founded the network that became Univision, has funneled more than $550,000 into Shasta County elections since 2020, a record for a single person. Last year, he joined forces with far-right activists — including California secessionists and armed militia members — to support the Shasta recall election, donating money that could be spent on relentless television and radio advertising.

Anselmo confirmed to The Times that, as county officials suspected, he contributed “dark” funds to a documentary launched by far-right activists that publicized the recall effort. Those contributions are not public, despite a complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Anselmo is a strong supporter of a militia that has been patrolling the streets of Redding and watching for protesters. Anselmo credits the armed group with saving Redding from antifa, which he says was “headed” for the city “trying to burn it.”

Concerned Shasta County residents have devoted countless hours attempting to decipher Anselmo’s motivations for stirring the pot of local politics, even watching his 2004 autobiographical epic, “Stateside,” starring Val Kilmer.

“I’m watching a county collapse,” Supervisor Mary Rickert, a rancher and grandmother of six, said of the recall efforts. “They want to take over. They want to replace anyone who knows how to do anything with people that don’t know. I’m really scared.”

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Anselmo himself has hinted at an answer to the question of his motivations: a long-simmering fight with county officials over land use at his Shasta County ranch and vineyard, which he said led to the breakup of his marriage.

[Read the story: “The ex-Hollywood filmmaker bankrolling a far-right political revolt in rural California,” in the Los Angeles Times]

Now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Today is St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re craving something that’s uncomfortably green and not at all Irish, Disneyland is selling an emerald green corndog. If you prefer shades of green that can actually be found in nature, our Food staff has rounded up eight recipes involving greens, including pozole verde and brine-braised chicken thighs with kale and avocado.

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

“We’re at war with each other.” Inside the ugly fight on the executive board of SEIU Local 1000, a powerful union that represents about 100,000 California workers. The union’s officers are pushing to oust controversial new president Richard Louis Brown, who won a three-year term last year in an election in which just 7,880 members cast a ballot. Sacramento Bee

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Bad bosses, beware. Columnist Anita Chabria profiles Lorena Gonzalez, the charismatic, smack-talking, trouble-making politician from San Diego who is now leading the California Labor Federation. Los Angeles Times

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L.A. STORIES

That’s why you had to keep circling the block: Two Silver Lake auto body shops have been criminally charged with parking luxury vehicles, including Porsches and Ferraris, in spots meant for residents and customers at local businesses. The charges follow a KNBC-TV Channel 4 investigation that observed an entire block of Fountain Avenue “taken up by Ferraris,” and parking enforcement officers who didn’t ticket the vehicles on street-sweeping days. Los Angeles Times

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

“Clearly, they’re not happy.” Two-thirds of likely San Francisco voters said they would vote to recall progressive Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin, with 78% rating his job performance as “only fair” or “poor.” The anti-recall campaign says they’ve seen polling that looks better, adding that the race is far from decided. If Boudin is recalled in the June election, Mayor London Breed would name his replacement. San Francisco Chronicle

“Disorganized and dangerous.” Days before state inspectors were to arrive, Los Angeles County Probation Department employees shut down a juvenile facility in downtown L.A. and hastily relocated about 140 children, some with serious mental health and behavioral issues, without notifying their parents. The move followed a finding in September that the facility was unfit to operate. Los Angeles Times

Welp: When employees at the city of Fresno wired more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds, they thought they were paying a contractor working on a new police station. Instead, they had fallen for a phishing scam, and the city waited two years to disclose the wire fraud. Los Angeles Times

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

“Salad doesn’t cure COVID, Connor.” A tidal wave of misinformation in the online wellness world has pushed vaccine-hesitant people away from the COVID-19 jab and toward unproven remedies, including tinctures of turmeric and quercetin, a battery of dietary supplements, and mega-doses of vitamins C, B-12 and D. Los Angeles Times

The labor shortage hits community clinics: Facilities that provide healthcare to poor and uninsured patients are struggling to hire and retain workers, resulting in longer wait times, slower referrals to medical specialists and fewer preventive screenings. Los Angeles Times

California’s oil patch: Feeling the pinch after several years of tighter regulation and lower production, Kern County is pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow an increase in oil production. One mayor described high gas prices and President Biden’s ban on Russian oil imports as a “God-given opportunity.” Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

“For that money, they should check your oil and your prostate,” said late night host Bill Maher of a Mendocino auto body shop selling gas for $8.45 a gallon. The miffed owner said she tries to set fair prices, and added: “It’s just unfortunate I’m not a franchisee and don’t have a convenience store.” Santa Rosa Press Democrat

High temps, sizzling prices: The high desert is the area of California where home prices spiked the most over the last two years. Seven of the 10 areas with the biggest price jumps were in San Bernardino County. Desert Sun

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: 78 and breezy, the perfect spring day. San Diego: 72, a flirtation between sun and clouds. San Francisco: 57 and cloudy, room for improvement. San Jose: 68, a cloudy morning and a sunny afternoon. Fresno: 74, overcast and humid. Sacramento: 68, cloudy and humid.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Carolyn Lingl:

In 1982, I had the typical Easterner’s view of L.A. as a post-apocalyptic wasteland of clogged freeways and smog. Imagine my surprise — leaving a cold, slushy New York in February for a business trip — to find those dreaded freeways landscaped with brilliant bougainvillea, to see breathtaking Pacific sunsets every night and to find the evening air perfumed by jasmine. Best of all, a blind date on my first night in town soon convinced me that I belonged here. Forty years later, I remain a happy convert, overwhelmed by California’s richness and beauty.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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