Political upheaval in Shasta County and what to watch for during the June 7 primary election
Politics in Shasta County, California took a particularly rancorous turn over the past year. The state’s primary election will take place on June 7th. JPR’s Erik Neumann spoke with David Benda, a senior reporter at the Record Searchlight newspaper in Redding, about the latest drama and the upcoming election in Shasta County.
Erik Neumann: Multiple top officials in county government have left or been fired in recent months. There was two top health officials; just recently the Shasta County CEO left. What kind of effect is this having on just how local government functions?
David Benda: It depends on who you talk to. You talk to the people who support Supervisor Patrick Jones and this right-leaning group who is pushing for change, and they're saying that the effect has been good. With the recall, they have got a majority that favors them on the board now, a board that is attempting to push policies that they back. You talk to others, including Supervisor Mary Rickert and Supervisor Joe Chimenti, who also were a target of the recall, they will tell you that this has been a terrible distraction and it's taking away from more important issues that the county should be working on. Two examples [are] affordable housing and the drought.
EN: Amidst these resignations and firings there's also a primary election that's coming up on June 7th. This seems like a rare election when I assume local offices -- things like the county clerk and the superintendent of schools -- are probably more a focus than the national races that usually capture people's attention. Are there important contested county seats that are up for election in the June primary?
DB: You are correct, the county clerk and the superintendent of schools, rarely the incumbent is challenged in an election. Both those incumbents are being challenged in the coming June 7 primary. There are two important county seats up for grabs. I say they're important because, should these establishment candidates win those seats, then you have the potential of the new majority on the board shifting back to what it was before the successful recall of Supervisor Leonard Moty. Those two seats are District 5 and District 1.
EN: Are local voters more mobilized than usual for this primary election?
DB: I will tell you one thing during the recall, there was very low turnout. But I can tell you the people that did turn out were the people who supported the recall of Leonard Moty. I would assume that those people are going to show up in droves come June. 7th. The question is, will the other side, so to speak, will they mobilize and show up and vote? I would think that a low turnout again is going to favor these non-establishment candidates.
EN: As I understand it, all of the county board of supervisors were Republicans, even before the recall happened, even though they're nonpartisan seats. This new majority swings farther to the right. So, while all these recent firings and resignations have taken place under the oversight of this new board of supervisors, the primary is going to be voted on by voters. What are you watching for with this primary election and what happens?
DB: The thing I'm watching for, again, is I'm keeping an eye on the two county supervisor seats that are up for grabs because there's a potential of the majority shifting the other way. That could very much change the way these county board meetings [and] enacting policy, play out in 2023. Whoever wins those two seats will take office in January.
EN: Okay, great. David, thanks a lot for talking with me today.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.