Shasta County Superintendent of Schools Judy Flores, County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen and District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett have several things in common.
All three women are respected elected public officials who’ve spent decades competently serving the citizens of Shasta County without scandal or mishap.
All three have been recognized by their peers and others for their outstanding achievements in their respective professions.
And now, all three women are under attack by the far-right political movement that has surged through the nation, including Shasta County, since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. As nasty as Trumpism was, in the wake of his electoral defeat and the advent of the novel coronavirus, it has morphed into something far worse.
The members of this right-wing political movement don’t believe in science. They don’t believe in expertise, meritocracy or democracy. They can’t properly be called Republicans or conservatives. They don’t believe in taking any collective action to mitigate ongoing catastrophes, whether it’s homelessness, climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic, which during the past two years has killed more than 1 million Americans, including 614 Shasta County residents.
They share Grover Norquist’s perverse desire to shrink government down to the size of a baby and drown it in a bathtub and former President Donald J. Trump’s predilection for owning the libs above all else.
They seek conflict, not cooperation, even if fighting means the perpetually beleaguered white working class they claim to represent gets hurt in the process.
Locally, this far-right movement is led by Shasta County District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones and is comprised of Tea Party remnants such as Mark and Lyndia Kent, State of Jefferson separatists like Terry and “Rally” Sally Rapoza and militia-aligned strongmen like Woody Clendenen and Carlos Zapata.
Formerly consigned to the margins of Shasta County politics, these rightwing extremists have gained a new lease on life thanks to the largess of Connecticut son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo, an extreme libertarian who has pumped more than $730,000 into their collective campaign coffers, according to campaign filings and Anselmo himself.
Kent’s sister Lyndia serves as the treasurer for Shasta General Purpose Committee, which received $450,000 last year from Anselmo to fuel its successful effort to recall Shasta County District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty in February.
In addition to Shasta General Purpose Committee, Tea Party provocateur cum Trumpist Mark Kent has formed the Liberty Committee Pac, which has donated thousands to the three rightwing candidates. It’s also paid Sinclair media company, which owns KRCR Channel 7, $12,325.
Liberty Committee has not disclosed its donors, but Anselmo said he recently donated another $180,000 to the movement.
It’s a relatively large sum of money compared to past political spending in Shasta County, and they’ve got hundreds of thousands of Reverge Revenge bucks left to burn.
Now, following a national trend, the hard right extremists have targeted school superintendent Flores, county clerk Darling Allen and district attorney Bridgett, all three of whom are respected elected public servants who due to the complex and demanding nature of their nonpartisan positions have generally faced few if any political challenges.
In short, these elected officials aren’t necessarily accustomed to raising campaign money, meaning the tens of thousands of dollars being injected into these races by Anselmo and other rightwing outsiders could turn the tide against this trio of exceptionally experienced public servants.
For the radical right, it’s not about installing competent candidates in these offices. It’s about inserting proto-fascist white Christian nationalist ideologues who will oppose mask and vaccine mandates in the middle of a raging pandemic, rave against queer people and people of color, proclaim election fraud without a shred of evidence and declare government itself the enemy of the people—even as they run for government offices.
Experienced Clerk and Registrar of Voters vs. Delusional Dominion Voting Systems Conspiracy Theorist
Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen reckons she’s counted more than 1.5 million votes through 28 elections since taking office 17 years ago in 2004. Like County Superintendent of Schools Judy Flores and District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett, she has earned accolades from her superiors and her peers, serving as president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials from 2012-2014.
In an interview with Verified Voting, which promotes the responsible use of technology in elections, Darling Allen explained how her work is shaped by democracy’s demands.
“I’ve been saying this since I took the job: never in my working life had I ever worked somewhere where we double, triple, quadruple checked everything,” she said. “We–all 99.9 percent of the election officials I have met and worked with and know all over the country, take this job extremely seriously, and understanding how important this work is shapes every decision we make.”
On the other hand, her opponent, retired utility manager Bob Holsinger, is apparently a Dominion Voting Systems conspiracy theorist who believes in the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former president Trump.
“As your County Clerk and Registrar of Voters, I will immediately pursue replacing the Dominion voting machines with an alternative vendor to help restore voter confidence in our elections,” Holsinger states on his campaign website.
Holsinger, who did not return A News Café’s email query, seems to be unaware that the “U.S. government has confirmed through multiple reports that no vote flipping, voting machine manipulation, or foreign government interference took place in the 2020 elections.”
The fact that Dominion has filed defamation lawsuits totaling billions of dollars against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, Fox News, One America News, Newsmax and scores of other rightwing operatives that spread lies about the company after Trump’s defeat has been widely publicized.
It’s possible Holsinger might know all of that and is just making a cynical ploy for Shasta County Trump voters who still believe the Big Lie.
It’s also possible he’s a true believer.
For the past five election cycles, Holsinger has volunteered as a poll watcher and trainer for Election Integrity Project California. While the organization claims to be nonpartisan, a Los Angeles Times investigation last year revealed it was founded by a Tea Party activist and continues to peddle the fiction that mass voting fraud by undocumented immigrants exists in California.
The Times investigation found that “there have been a troubling number of reports of poll watchers veering into the dangerous territory of challenging legitimate votes and registrations and intimidating voters during the November  election, according to official documents and court records.”
Holsinger aims to bring more aggressive poll watching to Shasta County.
“I will also work with my team to increase poll worker training so when issues at precincts arise during an election, workers have the knowledge to successfully implement and maintain honest and fair election practices,” he states on his campaign website.
But here’s the deal: Holsinger so far hasn’t detected any election fraud in Shasta County, or if he has, he hasn’t reported it.
“My opponent has never reported any election fraud to me,” Darling Allen said, adding that Holsinger has said that “he is unsatisfied with poll worker training and has concerns about many state laws.”
“We have a robust observation program in California, mandated by state law,” Darling Allen continued. “This gives the public access to all parts of the process. Up until five years ago, this program was a win-win, it’s a great way to invite the public into the process, and for them to be witnesses to democracy happening in real time. More recently the program has been weaponized, not in a minor way.”
Darling Allen said that she’s not aware of any case of voter intimidation in Shasta County and has had a “pretty good rapport” with Holsinger until recently.
“The February recall election was extremely problematic,” Darling Allen said. Even though the recall succeeded, right-wing poll watchers complained about the vote-counting process, which was exhaustive. “We hand-counted that election as part of a Risk Limiting Audit post-election, and our hand count 100 percent matched the machine count.”
Darling Allen said Shasta County has been satisfied with the equipment and services provided by Dominion Voting Systems. She couldn’t put a price on how much it would cost to scrap the contract with Dominion and find a new vendor because the process is complex.
“The county would need to initiate a competitive procurement process to get bids from the other two vendors currently certified in California,” Darling Allen said. “The marketplace for election technology is small. The current lease is 5 years into an 8-year contract. Election administration is a many layered, complex set of tasks that are interdependent.”
“Timing is also an important consideration,” she continued. “Based on my experience, I would recommend that we make changes in the odd year prior to a gubernatorial cycle.”
That’s why Shasta County contracted with Dominion Voting Systems in 2017, it was an odd year prior to a gubernatorial election. The next odd year prior to a gubernatorial election is 2025.
Clearly Holsinger, whose judgement when it comes to Dominion Voting Systems and voting fraud in California appears to be highly impaired, is no match for the far more experienced Darling Allen.
But once again, campaign donations from right-wing outsiders have turned what would normally be a farce into a competitive race. Holsinger has received maxed out $4900 donations from Shasta General Purpose Committee (largely funded by Anselmo) and the Liberty Committee. He’s raised a total of $10,000 compared to just $2160 for Darling Allen.
When it comes to the Shasta County primary election, competence and expertise might not be enough to win the day.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Meet Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett: Experienced Elected Official Targeted by Right-Wing Extremist in County Election
Read Part 1 of this series here.