Shasta County OKs election results that turned back a far-right revolt
After an expensive and often combative campaign, voters in a bellwether Northern California county have mostly turned away a slate of far-right candidates who had sought to take control of local government.
On Tuesday, after hours of debate that featured references to questions about the validity of Dominion voting machines, allegations of miscounted ballots and members of the public saying they feared for their safety at public meetings, the county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to accept the results of a June election that was bitterly contested.
The two dissenting board members, Patrick Jones and Tim Garman, had proposed instead a forensic audit of the county’s entire elections process, including, as Jones put it, “not just recounting ballots, but taking a look at the paper, the folds, the software.”
Backers of the far-right candidates had consulted with a pro-Trump data analytics company and claimed there were “irregularities” about Shasta’s election — which they did not detail — deserving further examination. One person in the audience referred to the effort as a “coup attempt.”
The certification represents a victory for mainstream Republicans in the county, who have long held power in government but have been roiled in recent years by a populist flank to their right, including members of a local militia, furious about coronavirus restrictions and seeking to remake government.
In February, the ultraconservatives stunned the state’s political establishment by recalling Supervisor Leonard Moty, a Republican former police chief, and then supporting a group called the Liberty Committee, which backed a slate of six for the June election.
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.
These included two candidates running for county supervisor seats as well as countywide candidates for sheriff, county clerk, district attorney and superintendent of schools. The Liberty Committee’s website declared that “our country is under assault. It’s time to take it back, one state, county and city at a time.”
Many of the candidates espoused get-tough talking points, including one candidate who vowed to “put the punishment back in crime and punishment.”
When the votes were counted, the group’s countywide candidates were all trounced. Its supervisorial candidates, Kevin Crye and Chris Kelstrom, finished second in their respective district races and advanced to runoff elections in November.
Ringed by mountains and home to just 180,000 people, Shasta County and its political convulsions have drawn national attention because of the involvement of the militia, the far-right ideas advanced, and the geysers of money that poured into local elections. Much of that money came from Reverge Anselmo, a former Hollywood filmmaker turned vintner who abandoned the county after a bitter land-use dispute.
One point of agreement during the hours of discussion Tuesday: The political tone in the county has grown divisive and ugly.
Conservative activist calls off his request for a recount in an election won by a landslide
A conservative activist has called off his request for a recount in a rural California election that was won in a landslide.
One woman stepped up to the microphone for public comment and declined to give her name. “I don’t feel safe identifying myself,” she said, adding that she had already been heckled while waiting to speak.
“Sadly there are many people who are afraid to come to this audience,” noted Supervisor Joe Chimenti. “Because they have witnessed what we have witnessed.”
Supervisor Garman, who often opposes Chimenti’s positions, agreed on that point.
“How ugly it is today,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. I’ve seen it. It has been heartbreaking what happens in this country and in this room.”
Supervisor Mary Rickert pleaded with her colleagues and members of the public to “move forward.”
“It’s been about five weeks” since the election, she said. “We have drought. We are holding our breath until the next fire erupts. We have all kinds of [drug abuse] issues. These are the things we should be spending our time on.”
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