Shasta County GOP’s Supervisor Candidates Forum Features Sparse Audience, 1 Candidate Walkout, Multiple No-Shows

If you thought that Shasta County’s progressives and conservatives were divided, take a look at Shasta County’s Republicans. They’re so deeply fractured that they’ve devolved into public bickering, subdivision, back-stabbing, and airing their dirty laundry.

Take last night’s Shasta County supervisor candidates forum hosted by the Shasta County Republican Central Committee.


Before we examine what happened last night, turn back the calendar to last week’s Shasta County GOP-hosted candidates forum. It was held at the Shasta Association of Realtors headquarters, attended by a standing-room-only, beyond-capacity crowd. In fact, the room was so full that some people were asked to leave, or go stand outside.

That particular Shasta GOP-hosted forum focused on four races: the Shasta County District Attorney, the Shasta County Superintendent of Schools, the Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters and the Shasta County Sheriff.

Of those, only the Shasta County District Attorney race was represented by both candidates at the forum: current Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett, and her challenger Eric Jensen.

Current Shasta County Superintendent of Schools Judy Flores showed up to participate in the forum, but her challenger Bryan Caples did not.

Current Shasta County Sheriff Mike Johnson showed up to participate in the forum, but his challenger John Greene did not.

Likewise, Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen showed up to participate, but her challenger Bob Holsinger did not.

Scratch that. Holsinger did show up much later, only after someone inside the forum quickly called Holsinger and prompted him to rush on over lickety split. Holsinger eventually arrived, looking rather sheepish, but it was well after Darling-Allen had already spoken. The forum organizers generously agreed to allow Holsinger to speak, despite his extreme tardiness.

That forum was videotaped by Richard Gallardo, posted on the Shasta County Republican Central Committees’ Facebook page. (I won’t criticize the sideways video, because as many of you who watch my Facebook live streaming videos are aware, I’m guilty of that very mistake sometimes. OK, often.)

If you watch that April 21 video, you’ll notice that there were a few times when some audience members became verbally involved in the forum, shouting out words of approval or disapproval from time to time.

So it goes lately with politics, Shasta-County style.

Last night’s forum

This brings us up to speed to last night’s forum. It was originally scheduled to take place at the Shasta Association of Realtors’ building, but the location was changed at the last minute to a larger venue at Simpson College, no doubt to avoid the full-capacity issues of last week’s forum.

Like sandbags awaiting a storm, stacks of folding chairs were at the ready outside the building that already held row after row of white chairs in anticipation of another packed house.

In fact, there was even a section of chairs reserved solely for the Shasta Republican Central Committee members. Membership does have its privilege.

Using the previous week as a cautionary tale, many people arrived as much as an hour early to secure seating and avoid being turned away. But as the starting time grew near, the room still had plenty of empty chairs. By the time the forum began at 5:30 p.m., there were only 58 people in attendance, a sharp decline from the previous week’s forum with more than 150 audience members. Bear in mind that those 58 individuals included campaign staffers, candidates’ family and friends, and, of course, Shasta GOP members and other random folks, like me.

Although this political event was billed as a forum, technically it was a Shasta County GOP meeting, complete with an opening prayer and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Brenda Haynes, District Representative for U.S. Congressman Doug LaMalfa.  Haynes was also the forum’s time-keeper, who held up file folders to alert speakers when they should wrap things up.

First, the moderator announced the names of those candidates who’d let the organizers know they would not attend: District 1 hopeful Kevin Crye, and District 5 candidate Alex Madrigal.

The stage held chairs for the remaining six candidates: District 5 hopefuls Baron Browning, Chris Kelstrom, Colt Roberts, and Frank Lobue; and District 1 candidates Erin Resner and Kymberly Vollmers.

Before the candidates took their seats, the GOP forum organizers could be heard asking one another about the whereabouts of candidate Colt Roberts. Had anyone heard from him? No. Where, oh where, was Roberts?

We’d later gain clues about Roberts’ absence. Either way, the forum began without Roberts.

4/30/2022 UPDATE: Colt Roberts sent a message saying he was not a no-show, as I’d written.  He said that he sent the following email to Cathy Kneer, the chair of the Shasta Republican Central Committee, that said he would not attend the Thursday forum, and why. He granted permission for ANC to post that email here. 

One more thing: Although Crye was as absent as Roberts, Crye had sent his eldest daughter in his place. She said that although it pained her dad to miss the forum, she was there to read a statement on her dad’s behalf. Her statement spoke of her dad in glowing terms, with no less than a dozen references to “my dad” throughout.

Had there been a “my dad” drinking game we’d have all perished from alcohol poisoning.

District 1 candidate Kevin Crye’s daughter reads a statement on behalf of her father.

At last, the forum began in earnest. All went well for a few minutes as each candidate was asked to make an opening statement.

First came Resner. She spoke of her experience as a present Redding City Council member and former Redding mayor. She spoke of her business experience as a co-owner with her husband of their Dutch Bros ventures. She spoke of being a mother of four, and her desire for Shasta County to be a safe place; a place she wanted her children to be proud of. She spoke of a need for decorum within government proceedings.

Vollmers explained how she became a pharmacy technician because of her love of people, and how she later went into cosmetology to try something new. She said that it wasn’t until she had children that she developed an interest in politics, and a longing to help make her community a better place.

Lobue brought a visual aid: a thick hunk about the size of a small AC window-unit that Lobue said was from one of the lightweight concrete construction projects he’s spoken so fondly of in previous forums. In fact, he’s spoken of this lightweight, fireproof construction material and method so frequently that it’s easy to forget that he’s running for supervisor, and instead imagine he’s working as a relentless construction materials salesman.

Next came Kelstrom’s turn, which is when things took an unexpected turn for the bizarre.

All eyes were on Kelstrom, second from the left, as he spoke for the first and last time of the evening.

Kelstrom started by thanking everyone for attending the forum. He then apologized to those Shasta Republican Central Committee members who’d supported him. He said he appreciated their support, and hoped to not lose it.

With that, he took his entire candidate-statement time to shovel criticism upon the Shasta Republican Central Committee, specifically its chair Cathy Kneer.

If you watch my glitch-filled video, at about the 11-minute mark you can see Kneer, who sits in front of me in the lower right corner of the frame, and the expression of disbelief (and probably embarrassment) as she shakes her head and looks to the moderator.

Kelstrom’s tale was obviously an inside story that only made sense to the Shasta GOP folks, but he forged on, undaunted. His story had something to do with Kelstrom being publicly disrespected at a fancy Shasta GOP Lincoln-Reagan dinner, along with his pals District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones and then-recently-elected District 2 recall candidate Tim Garman.

To add insult to Kelstrom’s lingering emotional injury, this was an event at which he’d volunteered as an auctioneer in previous years, and to which Jones had donated guns as auction items. The crux of the issue revolved around a conflict between mainstream Republicans and ultra-conservative Republicans.

“I’m an anti-establishment candidate,” Kelstrom said. “I was completely snubbed.”

As Kelstrom went on, the frozen looks upon the faces of the his fellow panelists proved that they’d make fine poker players. However, there were a few fleeting tells. One occurred when Resner reached for her water bottle, took a small sip, then did a quick side glance, accompanied by a barely perceptible shake of her head to someone in the audience.

The second candidate to give any indication of discomfort with Kelstrom’s stinking verbal dump was Lobue, who rubbed his face in his hands, and then looked up, red-faced and somber.

Perhaps it was Browning’s previous life as a Marine, and maybe it was thanks to Vollmer’s stint in cosmetology where she convinced clients that the fried, frizzy perm looked awesome, that kept them both nearly expressionless through Kelstrom’s tirade.

Kelstrom wasn’t done. He ventured into elementary-school territory as he accused Kneer’s husband of posting “quite a bit of stuff” on Kelstrom’s Facebook page. For the record, Kelstrom is still waiting for an apology.

Finally, Kelstrom spoke of how he and the other “anti-establishment” candidates have bonded, have become friends, and how they engage in frequent group chats. That’s when he dropped the piece of the puzzle into place that might explain why Roberts was a no-show, and perhaps why Crye wasn’t there, and maybe also why Greene and Caples hadn’t attended last week’s forum.

“We, as an entire group, decided not to participate in these things,” Kelstrom said. “In fact, this Sunday, I told a couple members that I would not be here. They did remove Cathy from moderating, so that is why I’m here … Again, I thank you all for coming. I appreciate those that support me, but this committee has become irrelevant. Until you change the leadership it’ll remain irrelevant. I came here, but I will not stay here.”

Way to keep it classy, Kelstrom.

With that, all six-feet-nine-inches of Kelstrom handed Browning the microphone. Kelstrom extricated himself from his folding chair, clambered off the stage and headed for the door. Mostly, the audience sat in stunned silence, with the exception of a smattering of applause, including that from GOP chair Kneer, who was no doubt relieved to see Kelstom leave.

And then there were four

The flustered moderator carried on as Kelstrom and his entourage that included Supervisor Jones, Jones’ wife, and other Kelstrom devotees, left the building. Their departure only further reduced the number of forum spectators.

After that, the moderator asked questions of the four remaining candidates about everything from cannabis, water and fire-prevention and fire-safety, to crime and homelessness.

And then there were four: From left, Baron Browning, Frank Lobue, Kymberly Vollmers and Erin Resner.

Each candidate got a crack at every question. You can see the entire video with all their answers at your leisure. (To watch the progression of Resner’s thinly veiled reactions, go to around the 21-minute mark of this video.)

There weren’t any glaring differences of opinion between the supervisorial candidates, with just a few nuances. Overall, crime and homelessness were cited as two of the biggest concerns. Although all the candidates expressed a need for more law enforcement and more help for those who suffer from addictions and mental health issues, Lobue was the outlier. He brought up his lightweight concrete projects, and suggested inmates be taught to build homes from those materials. Plus, he wanted the Crystal Creek inmate work facility reinstated.

Winners and losers

Resner and Browning were the strongest candidates by a country mile. Not only do they have the most experience in public office as respected leaders, but they present as articulate, confident, and willing to collaborate and cooperate for the greater good of the entire community.

Vollmers came across as sincere, with a genuine desire to make Shasta County a wonderful place. Perhaps in times of calmer waters, she’d make a fine supervisor. But at the moment, Shasta County’s ship is quickly sinking, and is in a five-alarm disaster mode. Resner and Browning appear the candidates most able (and willing) to set the county afloat and on its way to smooth sailing again.

Shasta County has suffered some searing insanity the last few years, thanks to the efforts of an unhinged mob of people who seem driven to “take back” and destroy Shasta County in the process. Therefore, in the county’s current state of crisis, this is no time for even the most well-meaning newbie amateurs. It’s all hands on deck, and the need for stable, experienced leadership has never been greater.

Shasta County “shitnado” montage by Shawn Schwaller.

Lobue? He’s an unorthodox character, for sure, and certainly bright enough. Clearly, he marches to the beat of his own drummer, and although some of his ideas may seem a tad whacky, I have to admit that his lightweight construction is intriguing.

Some of those guys are not like the others

Colt Roberts? Chris Kelstrom? Kevin Crye? I say no, no, no, and not necessarily just because they’re anti-government, anti-establishment ultra-conservatives.

My reason for rejecting them has more to do with their unwillingness to play by the rules, such as some months ago when Kelstrom, Garman and others whined like bratty baby boys when some League of Women Voters forum-organizers asked, as per the rules of the Pilgrim Congregational Church, for all candidates to please wear a mask. (Scroll down to the subhead, The great setup to refresh your memory about that night.) Those grown men stood outside the church in the cold and argued with the women about that. Once inside, Kelstrom removed his mask.

We’ve experienced the darkness and destruction that’s followed supervisors Jones and District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh as they’ve thumbed their noses at the rule of law. And we’ve seen what happens when a supervisor like Garman looks to Baugh, Jones and who knows who else for his voting orders and trite talking points.

“Freedom’s not for sale.”


Candidate forums are the best!

I love candidate forums. They’re learning experiences that allow us to see not just how candidates respond to questions, but how they perform when under duress, or when feeling discomfort, or embarrassed, or yes, snubbed.

How lucky for us to see how Kelstrom so ungraciously blasted the organizers of the very group who’d invited him to their forum. Thank you, Mr. Kelstrom. It’s good to know.

How lucky for us to recall a recent forum during which Crye so rudely failed to applaud for Vollmers and Resner at the event’s conclusion, although they’d applauded for him. Thank you, Mr. Crye. It’s good to know.

How lucky for us to realize that sometimes “anti-establishment” is merely a euphemism for arrested development. It’s good to know.

Straw poll

The forum concluded with a voluntary straw poll conducted by some members of the GOP group. It was later tallied and posted on the Shasta County GOP Facebook page.

The results, albeit unscientific, are interesting.

Shortly after the straw poll results were posted on the Shasta County GOP Facebook page, the nasty comments started rolling in. Apparently, there are some ultra-conservatives who see the Shasta Republican Central Committee as too liberal, much as how those who tore former District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty from his seat in a dirty recall accused Moty, a Reagan Republican, as being a socialist RINO, and worse.

If the straw poll is right, Judy Flores, Stephanie Bridgett, Mike Johnson and Cathy Darling Allen will all retain their seats in the June 2022 election.

“That’s really disappointing,” one person wrote on the local GOP page.

“… this is to be expected from RINO Central. Don’t worry,” replied another.

There’s a little more than a month left until the June 7 election. There are more forums coming up, and more opportunities to learn more about candidates.

Lucky us. And then, we vote.

(Editor’s note: This story was revised for clarification at 1:45 p.m. on 4/29/2022.) 


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Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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