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Shasta supervisors appear headed to November runoffs

A white suspension bridge in Redding, California with a tall post on one side.
Chad K
Wikimedia Commons
The Sundial Bridge in Redding, California, the county seat of Shasta County

While last-minute ballots could prevent a runoff election for the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, the turnout from last night’s primary shows a willingness to reject the current far-right shift in Shasta County politics.

As of 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, candidates Erin Resner and Baron Browning held comfortable leads over their opponents, Kevin Crye and Chris Kelstrom. In the district 1 election, Resener has 49.5% of the vote, over Crye’s 40.6%. While Browning holds 46.6% over Kelstrom’s 34.6% in district 5.

Turnout overall is fairly low, less than 25% of registered voters in the county have voted in the primary so far. That number could go up slightly as the remaining ballots are counted through next week.

Both Crye and Kelstrom were endorsed by the Shasta Recall Committee, a group formed last year to recall moderate board Supervisor Leonard Moty. Some people in Shasta County, including current Supervisor Mary Rickert, feared this election would be a continuation of the board’s conservative shift.

“There was a message sent that basically people have paid attention enough to see that they really don’t want this dramatic of a change, this change of a takeover of a particular political faction," says Rickert.

Far-right Supervisor Patrick Jones was elected to the board in 2020, and Shasta residents successfully recalled Moty earlier this year, replacing him with candidate Tim Garman. Since the recall election, the new 3-2 majority has pushed through a series of reforms, including a rejection of almost all COVID-19 restrictions in the county, and firing the county’s public health officer, Karen Ramstrom.

Shasta County CEO Matt Pontes stepped down from his position with the county in May. Jones had accused Pontes of withholding a past embezzlement conviction from the county when applying for the job. Pontes pleaded guilty to that charge 30 years ago.

But this primary election shows Shasta County residents may be prepared to reject the current political makeup of the board.

Resner is the leading candidate to replace retiring board Supervisor Joe Chimenti. Resner is endorsed by Shasta Vote, a political action committee formed in opposition to the recall campaign.

Browning is also endorsed by Shasta Vote. He also received an endorsement from retiring board chair Les Baugh, who Browning is running to replace in the 5th District.

Initial results suggest neither candidate will receive the 50% of votes required to avoid a run-off election. Because of California’s “top two” primary system, unless a candidate running for a non-partisan position receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates will face off in a runoff election. If that’s the case, Resner and Crye will compete for the District 1 seat, and Browning and Kelstrom in District 5 in November.

The Shasta County elections office is still counting ballots, which can be tabulated as long as they are postmarked before election day.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.