Longtime District 2 Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty faces a recall election on Feb. 1 for essentially one reason: According to his anti-mask anti-vax critics, he has allegedly caved to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s various COVID-19 mandates during a pandemic that will soon enter its third year.
Moty, along with District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti and District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert (both of whom repelled their respective recall attempts) did not genuflect toward Newsom. From almost the very beginning, the three supervisors comprised a 3-2 majority on the board that advocated educating the public about masking, handwashing, social distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions rather than enforcing state mandates by fining and/or closing down violators.
Considering nearly 500 people have been killed by COVID-19 in Shasta County since the pandemic began in March 2020, it might be argued the supervisors didn’t do enough to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s absurd to claim the supervisors kowtowed to Newsom’s every whim, as the recallers maintain, not to mention dangerous.
Shasta County’s fourth and most deadly COVID surge so far has yet to subside, and the Omicron variant is now here. Newsom issued a statewide mask mandate for indoor public gatherings last week. The worst may be yet to come.
With that in mind, the 21,540 registered voters in District 2 faced with the Feb. 1 recall election’s two-part ballot would be wise to vote “no” on recalling Moty. When it comes to the ballot’s part 2, they should refrain from voting for any of the four replacement candidates, none of whom comes close to matching Moty’s lifetime of public service and experience.
You don’t switch captains midstream during a literal pandemic, particularly when the alternative choices are so weak.
That at least is the strategy the Moty camp is promoting. The supervisor must earn more than 50 percent of the vote to stave off recall. If he does that, it doesn’t matter which one of his four competitors gets the most votes.
However, some second district voters who plan to vote no on the recall are wary about not casting a vote for a replacement candidate. Their rationale: Suppose Moty fails to gain 50 percent of the vote and winds up being recalled, and one of his challengers randomly takes the wheel? What do we really know about replacement candidates Dale Ball, Tim Garman, Tony Hayward Sr. and Tarick Mahmoud?
Ball has become well known in recent years for his public safety activism and homeless camp cleanups. Running on the more-cops, less-tweakers ticket, he challenged Moty, a former Redding police chief, in the 2020 primary election for the District 2 seat. Moty defeated Ball 51 percent (5188 votes) to 32 percent (3190 votes). Susan Wray Pearce received 17.2 percent (1740 votes).
Ball’s campaign was weighed down by the revelation he had pled no contest to beating a 13-year-old boy with a flashlight in 2006 and now seems to be running on inertia. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Alternative candidate Tim Garman, who promises to increase transparency if elected, also refused to be interviewed. I recently profiled Garman using his substantial social media trail. Among other things, I discovered Garman originally supported COVID-19 lockdowns then flipped the script when it became convenient. He refused to get vaccinated and wound up on oxygen for two-and-a-half weeks after contracting COVID-19 in August.
Redding Rancheria tribal council member Tony Hayward Sr. has raised $20,000 for his campaign, which so far has remained under the radar. Hayward did not return a phone call requesting an interview.
Which brings us to Tarick Mahmoud, the alternative candidate who is not like the others, for a variety of reasons, but in my view mainly because he actually agreed to participate in the political process and consent to being interviewed by the press, namely yours truly.
The 34-year-old roving relief pharmacist first emerged on the local scene when he appeared at a July 7 protest against the district attorney for pressing charges against Carlos Zapata, for for allegedly assaulting local chef and internet comedian Nathan Pinkney.
The event was organized by Woody Clendenen, Cottonwood barber/militia leader/Red, White and Blueprint devotee.
Mahmoud, who mistakenly believed Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett was prosecuting Zapata for “legitimate political activities,” was wearing a pith helmet and a pharmacist’s smock. His sign featured photos of Moty and Bridgette and text: “public enemy # 1,” and “corrupt politicians in bed with each other”.
He scaled a brick wall in front of the courthouse and waved an enormous American flag over the crowd.
Mahmoud sports a tattoo on his left forearm featuring a circle of 13 stars with the Roman numeral III in the center; it’s the familiar symbol of the Three Percenters, characterized as a nationwide right-wing anti-government militia movement by the Anti-Defamation League.
Like the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters are quasi white supremacist and virulently anti-Islamic, and the appearance of their symbol on Mahmoud’s dark-skinned arm at first seems rather incongruous.
He, is after all, the son of an Egyptian pharmacist and an American mother whose family hails from Trinidad and Tobago. Dad came to New York on a pharmacist scholarship; mom converted from Catholicism to Islam to marry dad. After Tarick, his twin brother, and their sister were born, the family moved to Egypt, where dad owned and operated two pharmacies. Following in his pharmacist father’s footsteps, Tarick earned his degree at age 24 and returned to the United States in 2010, where’s he’s been making his way up the pharmaceutical ladder in northern California ever since.
Mahmoud says he wasn’t aware the symbol inked into his skin was associated with the Three Percenters or racism and Islamophobia, but it’s not like he’s going to have it removed.
“I am proud to appropriate the tattoo,” he said in reply to my questionnaire. “It’s a 13-star symbol representing the first 13 colonies, the 3 branches of government, 1776, and a quote from a founding father. That all means a lot to me.”
Somewhere during his stay in northern California, Mahmoud got introduced to right-wing Tea Party-style Republican politics, but those politics have been filtered through a mind that hasn’t been stunted by growing up in the constipated American two-party system. Check out the progressive riff the allegedly conservative Mahmoud sent to a local radio station:
“I will vote for anything that would support wages and workers’ rights,” he wrote in all-caps. “Anything that would increase the number of jobs, wages or benefits for Shasta County residents will be something I’ll be very interested in. Not enough conservatives support policies or emphasize the importance of financial wellbeing to the overall health of our citizens and government.”
Then there’s this:
“We also don’t need an ‘anti-masker’ or ‘anti-vaxer’ as our next District 2 supervisor. We need a healthcare professional who can communicate the importance of these things without feeling compelled to leverage the power of government or business to force people to do things they don’t feel comfortable with yet.”
Mahmoud brings a mix of naivete, intelligence, and dare I say joy to the recall election that’s missing in the other would-be pretenders to Moty’s throne, which the supervisor has held steadily since 2008. The kid’s quick on his feet. Before anyone can play the race card on him, he plays it himself!
“I would be the first dark skinned-supervisor we ever had and possibly the youngest, so it would be a nice story and historically significant for the county when people accuse us of racism,” he told me matter-of-factly.
Readers, especially District 2 registered voters, can check out Mahmoud’s two debate performances so far here and here. Following are Mahmoud’s responses to the 10 questions I sent him, edited for length and clarity. Our invitation to alternate recall candidates Dale Bale, Tim Garman and Tony Hayward Sr. to participate in the democratic process remains open.
1. If you had been supervisor when COVID struck in March 2021, would you have publicly endorsed wearing face masks? Why or why not?
Yes, I would have publicly endorsed wearing masks. I would have because I care about people, and I am a healthcare professional and it’s an endorsement not a mandate. People recoil when you mandate anything in America so as a politician, I would not ignore the political climate when I make behavioral or policy decisions. Mandates fuel conspiracy theories, and unless you are talking about everyone wearing an N-95 mask, the masks only prevent high viral load droplets from transmitting the virus. Masks are good, but they are not foolproof.
2. If you had been supervisor when COVID struck, would you have publicly endorsed Gov. Newsom’s shelter in place order? Why or why not?
No, I would have not endorsed that policy or shutdowns of any kind. Here are some simple reasons: The mortality rate is not high for COVID-19 and we had vaccines coming. We also do not have a high-volume public transportation system here in Shasta County that would fuel transmission like in bigger cities. Finally, Big businesses were never asked to “shelter in place” or shut down, which was unfair to small business.
3. Does your employer mandate vaccination? Is that the only reason you got vaccinated or would you have gotten vaccinated anyway?
My employer did not mandate the vaccine. I got the vaccine because I felt it was the right thing for me to do for myself and others. We need to educate not mandate. On that note, I am excited to share the development of 2 new break through drugs Paxlovid and Molnupivir that will treat the virus directly, stay tuned!
4. You’ve been criticized because one of your tattoos is an insignia used by the white Christian nationalist group the Three Percenters. Were you aware the Three Percenters use that symbol before you got the tattoo?
No, I wasn’t aware. Most people like my sleeve and regardless I am proud to appropriate the tattoo. It’s a 13-star symbol representing the first 13 colonies, the 3 branches of government, 1776, and a quote from a founding father. That all means a lot to me. I am a proud American. I don’t really care about so called “Christian white nationalists.” I care about America and Americans.
5. Why did you support Carlos Zapata at the protest against the district attorney for allegedly assaulting Nathan Pinckney?
It was alleged, and I would support anyone if I felt they were being targeted because of their legitimate political activities. The way things are in Shasta County I would say yes, my perception was he and many others who supported the recall were targeted in unfair ways.
6. When does the common good supersede individual liberty? Put another way, when does the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? Please use your knowledge of the U.S. Constitution to answer the question.
It’s case by case. I would say it’s a Yin and Yang check and balance process. I think we can all agree that the rights of the individual are what protects minorities of all kinds, (racial, religious, political, etc.) when there is a showdown in court. It’s the natural check we have built in as a republic against mob rule.
7. You claim to speak for a majority of District 2 voters. How do you know this? Did you take a poll?
I said that I will listen to all the constituents in District 2 and will represent them to the best of my ability. I love Shasta County and I want to contribute to making it even better for all of us.
8. Given that you have basically zero experience as a public servant, why should voters choose to recall lifetime public servant Leonard Moty and vote for you rather than one of the three other replacement candidates?
I just served the county through the Shasta County Grand Jury in 2019-2020, and I have also been serving my community since 2013 as a dedicated healthcare professional. Your vote would be for a healthcare professional with managerial experience in the middle of a pandemic.
I am also not financed by or involved with any of the local drama here in Shasta County. I am a new page and voting for me is a vote for tangible change. I would proud to be the first person of color supervisor we’ve ever had in Shasta County, so you would be contributing to a historically significant progressive event in our county.
9. Since you’re campaigning for office, why aren’t you raising money?
I am not too worried about that. My strategy cannot be to outspend my opponents. If they can’t connect with more people like I am trying to, they will all fail just like Michael Bloomberg did in 2020.
10. Define “conservative.” What do you mean by calling yourself that?
I like that you asked that question, because a lot of people assume it means at best Religious and at worst, “closed-minded”. Republican and Conservative to me means someone who believes in a representative “republican” form of government, and would like to conserve the values, principles and priorities articulated in our founding documents.
Yes, there have been many times in our history where their selective application has caused a lot of injustice, pain and suffering, but it has been remarkably self-correcting over time with more inclusion, and it has truly succeeded in creating out of many one, which I think is a beautiful thing worth celebrating.