A far-right insurrection aims to take over this Northern California county, at the ballot box

Patrick Jones stands at the counter of a gun shop, with rifles lined up behind him
Patrick Jones, Shasta County Supervisor and gun shop owner, is allied with the “Liberty Committee,” a group running a slate of candidates to take more control of the county government.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The sun was blindingly bright, and the streets in Redding’s Buckeye neighborhood were mostly empty — anyone at home on this Tuesday afternoon was wisely staying out of the 100-degree swelter.

Kevin Crye, the owner of a local children’s “Ninja Gym” who is running for a seat on Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors, was undaunted. He charged from house to house dropping fliers depicting a Crye family portrait. When people answered their doors, Crye would introduce himself and cheerfully demand to know what they considered the top issues in this city in the far north of California’s Central Valley.

Crye has never run for office before, and only got into politics last fall after far-right power brokers — who are trying to wrest control of county government away from the traditional Republican establishment — encouraged him to join their ballot-box insurrection.

“I actually hate politicians,” he confided to one prospective voter after chasing him up his driveway to give him a flier. Now Crye is doing his utmost to run a traditional campaign: raising money, getting his name out and, most important, trying to personally connect with every possible voter before Tuesday’s election.

If elected, Crye said his priority will be to listen to his constituents and make their voices heard — an attribute he says has been missing from county government. But to many throughout California, the stakes of his campaign — and five other seats up for grabs on Tuesday — go far beyond the concerns of Shasta County Supervisorial District 1.

Far-right activists, including members of a local militia, led a successful recall campaign in February against a Republican supervisor. Now the newly formed “Liberty Committee” is backing a Tuesday election slate of Crye and five other candidates to further consolidate power. The group’s website declares that “our country is under assault. It’s time to take it back, one state, county and city at a time.”


In recent months, county government has been in near chaos. Board meetings have been raucous, with anti-establishment activists screaming and threatening violence. Some county workers say they fear for their safety. Amid it all, an astronomical amount of money has flooded into local politics.

Reverge Anselmo, a former Hollywood filmmaker turned vintner who abandoned the county after a bitter land-use dispute, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the recall and has given hundreds of thousands more this spring, including to the Liberty Committee, according to records.

Former U.S. Marine Reverge Anselmo had a beef with Shasta County land use officials. So he used his riches to remake the county board. He’s not done yet.

March 16, 2022

In May, the new conservative majority on the Board of Supervisors fired the county’s health officer, Dr. Karen Ramstrom.

Shortly after that, the county’s chief administrator, Matt Pontes, announced that he was leaving — but not before he told the local paper that one of the pro-recall supervisors, gun-store manager Patrick Jones, had been “blackmailing” him.

Pontes could not be reached for comment. Jones said the allegation was a “total” lie, adding: “I asked him to take a polygraph, and he won’t do it.”

The county’s voters now face a stark choice between the Liberty Committee’s slate and the traditional Republican establishment. Though Shasta County is home to just 180,000 people, the election is being watched as a harbinger of rising radicalism in local government, particularly because the recall contingent has touted its playbook as a national model.

Jones was hesitant to talk to The Times, claiming unfair treatment in past coverage. But he did say, “there’s a lot riding on this election” and that he was glad that voters have choices for each of the top seats, because in the past, candidates had run unopposed. He predicted the Liberty slate would sweep next week. And he also took umbrage at the focus on Anselmo, the former Hollywood filmmaker, and his contributions, which have helped the Liberty Committee spend tens of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads, mailers and other outreach on behalf of each of the candidates.

Last month, Anselmo told a reporter from the Redding Record Searchlight that it was no accident that the committee is only backing men. Women tend to be too emotional and “squishy,” the paper reported Anselmo as saying. He did not respond to an email asking him to elaborate.

Reverge Anselmo, owner of Anselmo Vineyards, talks with a friend.
Reverge Anselmo, left, owner of Anselmo Vineyards, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaigns to change the leadership of Shasta County.
(Greg Barnette / Record Searchlight)

Stephanie Bridgett, the incumbent district attorney, who faces a challenge from Liberty-backed attorney Erik Jensen, said the comment was “disheartening” but not surprising, “given the way those candidates have acted at forums towards, say, women who are the moderators.”

For sheriff, the Liberty Committee is backing John Greene, a retired sheriff’s deputy whose website vows that he will protect 2nd Amendment rights and speed up issuing concealed carry permits. Both Greene and his opponent, incumbent Sheriff Michael Johnson, have pledged their support for Richard Mack’s Constitutional Sheriff organization, which holds that sheriffs have the authority to uphold the Constitution, and to not enforce any federal or state laws that they deem unconstitutional.

For county schools superintendent, the committee’s pick is Bryan Caples, whose campaign website declares that “radical socialist agendas have been used to force school districts to adopt policies that are anti-American and anti-freedom.” Caples is facing incumbent Supt. Judy Flores, who has worked in education in the county for 32 years.

The race for county clerk/registrar is a contest between incumbent Cathy Darling Allen and Bob Holsinger, a retired utility manager who has pledged to “immediately pursue replacing the Dominion voting machines” and to purge voter rolls of ineligible voters.


In the 5th Supervisorial District, Liberty backs Chris Kelstrom, the director of a local chamber of commerce who says on his website that he wants “to bring the ‘punishment’ back to crime and punishment.”

Crye is the committee’s pick in District 1. His opponent is former Redding mayor and local businesswoman Erin Resner.

If this were a traditional election, Resner, who was raised in Shasta County and returned after college, would probably be viewed as the front-runner. A mother of four, she is a Republican who, with her husband, owns eight Dutch Bros coffee franchises in the county. The couple employ more than 250 people and are active in their church, in nonprofit work and in local politics.

Resner said she is running because she loves Shasta deeply and believes she has the know-how to improve services for residents. She also sees the potential to boost the county’s fortunes by making it a destination for remote work. But this campaign, she said, has taken her breath away, with vitriol, disinformation and “sexist comments.”

Shasta is “an incredible place to be,” she said. “But we’re fighting each other. It’s been shocking.” Some of her supporters, she and her campaign manager said, have posted comments in her favor, only to see themselves attacked. People are afraid. “This election, if it doesn’t go a certain way…” she trailed off.

Since this is a small town, Crye has known Resner’s family for years, and he bristles at the idea that he is part of a far-right takeover.

“I’m not trying to be painted like I’m somebody’s puppet,” he said. “I’m not beholden to anybody.”

He also disavows the notion that he is associated with the militia, repeatedly joking he wouldn’t qualify because he has been known to shave his legs, a habit he picked up from triathlons.

As Crye tells it, he got into politics by accident. He and his wife were fed up with pandemic restrictions and the toll they were taking on children and local businesses and fearful of vaccine mandates in schools. They began plotting a move to a more conservative place. They looked at Texas, which Crye’s wife hated, and then Tennessee, where they decided to settle.

A Shasta County supervisors’ meeting was faced with verbal threats to government officials and talk of civil war. “You have made bullets expensive. But luckily for you, ropes are reusable,” one person threatened.

Jan. 10, 2021

But in late October, he went to an anti-vaccine and testing walkout at a local school, and shortly thereafter to a Board of Supervisors meeting, where — with characteristic courtesy — he respectfully but forcefully confronted the board and asked them to buck state health laws around the pandemic.

His speech won loud applause, and within a few days, he began to get texts from people urging him to run, including Supervisor Patrick Jones and Jeremey Edwardson, who has been producing a slick documentary series called “Red White and Blueprint,” that aims to help Shasta insurgents export their recall revolution to other counties.

“I’m not sure if you’re interested,” Edwardson wrote Crye, according to text messages Crye shared with The Times. “But we need a strong leader in District 1.”

Crye nixed the plan to make a new life in Tennessee and threw himself into the race, spending part of almost every day knocking on voters’ doors.

On a recent afternoon, he led a reporter through a homeless encampment that extends down into a canyon on the north end of town, explaining that he wants to address homelessness. He stopped and talked to a couple who he judged to be meth users — explaining that he could spot drug users because his own brother was one, until he was killed in an accident in 2013.

Then he headed to the Buckeye neighborhood. At door after door, residents looked at Crye and then greeted him as “coach” — recognizing him from his years training their kids in basketball. Crye summoned personal memories of each child, and asked how they were doing.

Many residents told Crye they were worried about crime. They recounted tales of cars stolen, of feeling unsafe venturing to certain places because of homeless encampments. Some expressed gratitude that he cared enough about their views to come to their door.

Toward the end of the afternoon, Crye came upon a house that — unusual for deep-red Shasta County — boasted a sign that declared: “Hate Has No Home Here.”

The door was opened by a worker in the county’s health and human services department, who was home sick, visibly ill, and nevertheless streaming a work meeting on her computer in the background.

The worker, who is 51 and has worked for the department for years, asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. She stared at Crye in disbelief when he explained who he was and asked about the problems facing the community.

“I think our community is falling apart,” she said, adding pointedly there‘s “a lot of hate and division.”

Tensions are rising in Shasta County, where a far-right group wants to recall supervisors, has threatened foes and bragged about ties to law enforcement.

May 19, 2021

Crye agreed that the political climate at the moment was tricky, and then began talking about homelessness, crime and irresponsible government spending — topics that had received a warm reception at other doors.

But the woman wasn’t having it. She told Crye that dedicated county workers “feel like we’re under attack” and fear that some want to “privatize child welfare,” which could lead to “more child abuse” and “more homelessness.”

“When you think you know everything,” she added, referring to the board’s current anti-government majority, “you don’t tend to listen.”

Crye gave the woman his cellphone number, and assured her he wanted to hear where she was coming from.

In an interview later, the woman said she was backing Resner, Crye’s opponent, but was worried that Crye and other committee-backed candidates would win.

The county was “heading in a good direction” until a few years ago, the woman said, adding, “COVID and Trump have just blown it out of the water.”

She said she has told her son, who is Black, that when he turns 18, he needs to leave Shasta County, because “I don’t trust his well-being here anymore. And other people are feeling that way. Women are feeling that way.”

And she has also told her father, who is 81 and a retired county worker, that she doesn’t think it is safe for him to go to supervisors meetings by himself. She’s worried someone might attack him if he disagrees with a common sentiment there — disparagement of public officials.

“All I can do is vote,” she said. “I want them to know: You don’t speak for me.”