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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Recall election indicates sharp right turn in Northern California county

Two far-right candidates remain in a close race to replace a Republican county official accused of not standing up against Covid policies from Sacramento.

(CN) — Rural Shasta County, California, is poised to replace one of its Republican county supervisors with a far-right candidate.

Voters in Shasta County’s District Two recalled longtime public servant Leonard Moty as supervisor in a recall election spearheaded by a coalition of hyper-conservative and libertarian groups, including militias, Second Amendment supporters, inflamed opponents of Covid-19 restrictions and advocates for a secession from California. As of Monday, the election results showed nearly 56% of voters elected to recall Moty, a margin of over 1,000 votes. Though fewer than 150 ballots remain to be tabulated and mail-in votes may continue to trickle in until the cutoff on Feb. 8, it is almost certain Moty will be removed from office.

The distance between the two far-right candidates jostling to replace Moty remains tight. Tim Garman, president of the Happy Valley School Board, leads Dale Ball by just 126 votes.

“I think our community will change drastically,” Moty told Courthouse News of the consequences of the election. He said he worried the heated election would dissuade “good people” from running for public office and was “concerned” by the number of people who told him they supported him but were afraid to do so publicly because of threats of retaliation.

Moty also fears the new majority on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors would vote against accepting a $34 million payment the county is set to receive because they say the funding has “strings attached.” Moty said all funding from the state or federal governments has some conditions, such as equal opportunity compliance.

“That’s our tax dollars coming back to our county,” Moty said. “They actually would vote to not accept that money and let some other county or some other state use it. I think that’s very sad for our community.”

Moty warned the recall’s success could serve as a playbook for similar far-right coalitions to mobilize in other rural, conservative counties across the state and region to make more “alt-right, extremist counties.”

“I don’t think that overall it will change the Democratic-leaning population in California, but I think it will lead to a more divided state, which then leads to more rancor between communities,” Moty said.

Much of the focus of the recall effort against Moty centered on claims he was unresponsive to the desires of his constituents, particularly when it came to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the recall election, Supervisor Patrick Henry Jones told Courthouse News he predicted Moty would be recalled with 58% of the vote, citing the energy of a “grassroots movement” angry that Moty did not more explicitly, forcefully and continuously defy the policies coming from Sacramento.

“He’s not paying attention and that’s why he’s got himself into this position,” Jones said. “Not too often do we have a recall that gets certified. In fact, it’s never happened in this county except for him.”

Jones was among the most vocal supporters of the recall movement, helping rally signatures to initiate recall proceedings against three of his fellow Republican supervisors. Only Moty’s recall petition garnered sufficient signatures for an election, but his apparent ouster is likely to swing the balance of the board in Jones’ direction. Jones declared victory last week after the initial results showed Moty losing the recall bid. Ball and Garman campaigned against county compliance with the strictest Covid-19 protocols, and opponents of vaccine and mask mandates rallied behind both men.

Jones and others affiliated with the recall effort circulated mistrust of the election integrity before any votes were counted, which Moty said was “laughable” since they leveled none of those claims after the election ended in their favor.

“Maybe I should go down there and file a complaint and say, ‘Hey, they argued it, so it must be true,’” Moty joked. “I would never do that. I trust our system and what’s happening. They’re just following the same mantra that they did at the national level — that everything is a conspiracy and everything is against them unless they win.”

Moty said this piqued some of his chief concerns for Shasta County, worrying that some voters felt only some votes should count and others should not.

With a recall turnout of approximately 40% of the district’s 22.000 voters, Moty said he was disappointed more people did not understand how consequential the election could be for the county — especially given the county's convenient mail-in voting procedure.

“I think there will be people who will regret that they did not participate,” Moty said. “If you want to make sure that the real, full majority of people rule your county, you need to be involved. Otherwise it’s very easy for a small, select group on either side or on different issues to run your county or to take over on an issue.”

Garman and Ball did not return requests for comment.

Categories / Politics, Regional

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