About 80 people scattered among the sea of available seats inside the McLaughlin Auditorium in Redding Wednesday. Everyone was there for a Shasta County GOP candidates forum. Judging by many familiar faces, the majority of the audience was comprised of Republicans. A few Democrats, and folks from other parties, slinked down low in their seats to watch the show.
Debate moderators Janet Chandler and Erin Ryan kept the event going at a smooth, easy clip with a variety of questions. The event actually featured two forums. Part 1 was a warm-up act of sorts between three U.S. Senate contenders from outside the North State: Eric Early, Denice Gary-Pandol, and James Bradley. All are vying for former Senator Diane Feinstein’s seat. (You can watch the Shasta County GOP’s Facebook Live feed here to see that part of the Senate forum.)
For fun, prior to the program’s start, Ryan provided straw poll ballots which she encouraged audience members to fill out and turn in at the end of the evening.
Gary-Pandol met audience members at the entrance, smiled, introduced herself and shook as many hands as possible. She and Early had both traveled to Redding from their respective homes far from Redding. Bradley appeared on a massive screen high above and between Gary-Pandol and Early via a Zoom call that suffered some delays and audio issues that left the moderators saying, “can you hear me now”? and Bradley asking the moderators to repeat questions.
Although all three Senate candidates were staunch Republicans with nearly identical beliefs, Bradley appeared as the least polished of the three candidates.
Gary-Pandol and Early were cordial enough with one another, but they were clearly trying to differentiate themselves from each other; difficult because they shared the same political views.
Bradley did earn points by referring to Shasta County as a “bastion of conservatism”.
Early, who spoke positively about former President Donald Trump a few times, which played well with the Trump 2024 merch table, described himself as a “proud MAGA Republican,” and pronounced Shasta County as politically powerful.
Gary-Pandol came across as classy, articulate and diplomatic, and boasted that she was the only candidate with national security clearance (disputed by both men later). She proposed that the Senate makes Election Day a holiday, that the government stops taxing veterans’ benefits, that the Senate should dump the Department of Education and get back to “Judeo-Christian values”. That last line received hearty applause.
Early, who said he was the lead attorney for efforts to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, used the most bold rhetoric, throwing out such crowed-pleasing one-liners as, “… I don’t want to be part of the Mitch McConnell wax museum,” and earned cheers of approval when he referred to “Republicans who act like Democrats”.
After Bradley mentioned particular meetings, Early shot back, “Nice little meetings? What the hell are you talking about, James?”
Bradley name-dropped, and said he was endorsed by Moms for Liberty.
Early said when he steps off the plane onto Redding’s tarmac, he feels as if he’s in America.
Gary-Pandol said kidnapped children’s body parts are being harvested and sold, and she’d recommend legislation that would call for the death penalty for all human traffickers.
When the moderator asked what each candidate would propose if promised a 100-percent vote of approval, James replied quickly that he’d build the wall to stop the flow of immigrants into the United States.
Gary-Pandol said she’d end inflation and expand the fossil fuel industry.
Early said he’d cut federal funding to every collage in the country, because universities and collages are “indoctrinating” young people and creating “American Marxists”, adding that he’d fire every “Marxist professor”.
The main event: supervisor candidates
Eventually, the Senate candidates forum was over. It was time for the main event: the forum between Republican Shasta County Supervisor candidates: District 4 hopeful Matt Plummer, District 2 hopeful Dan Sloan, District 3 hopeful Win Carpenter, and District 2 hopeful Laura Hobbs.
Supervisor/chair Patrick Jones currently presides over District 4. Supervisor Mary Rickert currently presides over District 3. Supervisor Tim Garman currently presides over District 2, a seat he gained via a lie-based recall election of former District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty.
Before the supervisors candidate forum was underway, moderator Ryan announced that District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones would not be participating in the forum due to an illness. Only the most gullible person in the auditorium believed Jones was ill. Rather, the prevailing consensus was that incumbent Jones decided to play it safe and stay home, rather than roll the dice and be compared on stage to his challenger Matt Plummer, someone who’s younger, better educated and lacks baggage relating to shooting ranges and/or pig hunts.
Although community organizer Susanne Baremore recently announced her run for District 2, the Shasta County GOP explained on its Facebook page that Baremore was not invited to the forum because she’s not a registered Republican.
This confirms how partisan the Shasta County Supervisors elections have become, because, as with all other North State elected positions for everything from school boards and city councils to water boards, mosquito boards and supervisor seats, these races are supposed to be non-partisan. That’s a joke, and everyone knows it.
That left four supervisor candidates on the panel for Wednesday’s forum, which A News Cafe captured in a Facebook Live video. All three men wore suits accented by variations of red ties. Hobbs wore a navy suit dress with red sandals.
Moderator Ryan said the forum would provide insights about the candidates’ thought processes.
Hobbs was the first candidate to tell about herself. She said she first became involved in politics after the “2020 election was stolen”. Hobbs said she found fraud and manipulation in races overseen by Shasta County Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen.
For the rest of the evening, Hobbs was a one-trick pony; a one-issue candidate who repeatedly beat the drum about alleged Shasta County election fraud. However, when asked to address other parts of Shasta County governance, Hobbs seemed to lose her way. Twice she referred to the Redding Police Department, which is under the jurisdiction of the city of Redding, not Shasta County.
Matt Plummer was up next. He said he’s running for office in District 4 against Jones because he believes the contract between government and its people is broken.
Plummer said he’d worked as a volunteer for five months on the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. He said a limited government is of no use if it’s not effective.
Next was Dan Sloan for District 2, who identified himself as a Simpson University professor who believes in Christ and strong Republican values. He said he was born in Redding, but later spent time in other parts of the world, such as China — and realized after he’d returned to Redding that some Chinese ways had crept into American governance.
Win Carpenter, who’s running for District 3, said he was a seventh-generation Shasta County resident, and that his family has been in Shasta County before California became a state. One of the most surprising things Carpenter shared Wednesday was that he’s a Pit River Tribal member.
“You wouldn’t know it by looking at a fat redhead, but I am a Tribal member,” a grinning Carpenter said, raising his voice to be heard over the audience laughter. “If you ever saw my mother you’d know it was true. But I am a member of the Pit River Tribe, so I am invested; long-time invested.”
The moderator asked each candidate to share their top priorities. Carpenter repeated what he’s said often recently on the KCNR Jefferson State of Mine radio show that he co-hosts with State of Jefferson devotee Terry Rapoza: forensic audits of county departments. As an aside, this was also something that current District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom also promised to implement as a top priority during his campaign if he elected as supervisor. But after Kelstrom was voted in, and it came time for the county budget process, one of the only questions Kelstrom asked at the end of the auditor’s presentation was about a line item for food, which turned out to be food for the employee appreciation luncheon, which left Kelstrom looking rather foolish.
Carpenter also said law enforcement need more help. He shared an idea where Shasta County could join with other counties to send some inmates to the now-closed former Susanville Prison.
“Why don’t the counties band together — financially band together — in a good way to send all the state jailees — prisoners over there?” Carpenter asked.
“The facility is already in place. They have the staff in place. Hire staff, and take the burden off our local jail. We’re going to pay for it one way or another. We may as well get them out of our community and in jail where they need to be.”
Carpenter’s idea received enthusiastic applause.
Hobbs — no surprise by now — talked about elections, and shared her desire to separate Shasta County’s ballots and count the ballots by hand, not machine, because she believed Shasta County’s current election system could be hacked.
What’s more, Hobbs said the 2022 June primary elections should be decertified. She listed four elections she claimed weren’t the true winners — the district attorney, the registrar of voters, the sheriff and the superintendent of schools. Hobbs said she believed there was computer manipulation that made them the winners, when those race numbers should have been much lower.
“So we really don’t know the true result,” Hobbs said.
Sloan said he’d focus on a number of things related to the economy: tourism, education, medical care, and promoting a regional airport that serves more than just Redding, but the entire county. He said he wants to take back local control.
Plummer spoke several times throughout the evening about issues related to homelessness, crime and mental illness. He talked about what he called the county’s current “jail-to-street” pattern where people are arrested, end up in jail, and when they leave the jail, they take to the streets and end up committing crimes again. He said one feature within CalAIM that enrolls inmates in the program 90 days before their release dates, and then tracks them so they don’t end up living on the streets when they leave jail.
He said the Shasta County jail has become a de facto mental health facility. He said the inmates with mental health issues should be siphoned off into in-patient mental health facilities.
“We used to have mental health facilities where people could go, and get the treatment, and achieve some measure of stability,” Plummer said. He later said he was in favor of navigation centers; places to provide access to services, and give the unhoused places to go to get off the streets and away from homes and businesses.
Still on that subject, Plummer said he’d like to see a consistent ban on public camping, but that first there must be housing options available.
All four candidates were for a charter county to achieve what they believed would bring them greater local control, but Plummer added the caveat that supervisors should not be able to fill a vacant supervisor’s seat, nor should the governor. Plummer said that filling a vacated supervisor’s seat should be solely up to the voters in that district.
All four candidates said they would not accept campaign donations from anyone related to the marijuana industry.
One question not asked — and may never be asked — was whether they’d accept money from outside donors, such as Reverge Anselmo or Mike Lindell, for example.
At the end of the forum Hobbs announced that she’s collecting signatures for her run for office, and said she would have forms at the back of the room available for people to sign. Sally Rapoza was there with pen in hand, placing her signature on Hobbs’ form. Does that mean the Rapozas are supporting Hobbs, and not Sloan? Or will they divide their votes; one for Sloan, one for Hobbs?
A few things to consider.
The current slate of candidates may not be the ones in place during the election. There may be more candidates who throw their hats in the ring prior to the filing deadline, mid-December. Some candidates may bow out. The race could get crowded and messy.
Second, in addition to running against non-Republican Baremore — who’s registered as a NPP (no party preference) — Hobbs is also running against Sloan, a fellow Republican and co-forum participant.
Having two Republican District 2 candidates will give District 2 Republican voters more choices, but it can also split the votes and propel Baremore into the lead. (See the straw poll below, for a classic illustration of a 50/50 divided vote.)
Finally, the forum was done. As the audience filed out of the auditorium, nearly every person — including this reporter — placed their straw poll ballots in the cardboard ballot box.
A few hours later the results appeared on Shasta County’s GOP Facebook page. It appeared the crowd favored Eric Early’s tough talk after all.
The results, out of 80 returned straw polls, were as follows:
Denice Gary: Pandol – 27 votes
Eric Early: 33 votes
James Brady: 11 votes
None of the above: 6 votes
Shasta County Board of Supervisors
Dan Sloan District 2: 35 votes
Laura Hobbs District 2: 35 votes
None of the above: 6 votes
Win Carpenter District 3: 64 votes
None of the above: 10 votes
Matt Plummer District 4: 25 votes
Patrick Jones District 4: 54
None of the above: 0
As the forum’s moderator Erin Ryan emphasized, the straw polls aren’t scientific. They’re just for fun. However, there’s no denying the stark contrast between Plummer’s straw poll tally — 25 — and Jones’ — 54, a number achieved despite Jones calling in sick and not showing up.
Of course, this was the Shasta County GOP forum. Many forums and debates will happen in the next months and on into 2024. But Shasta County’s an extraordinary place for many extraordinary reasons. A lot’s in flux. For one thing, Kevin Crye could be recalled in March, which would leave yet another supervisor seat open.
For a real unprecedented monkey wrench, just imagine the chaos should District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom decide this wasn’t the job he signed up for — for multiple reasons. Just imagine if he cut his losses and quit before his 2026 term expired. Now that would be a year for Shasta County’s history books.
These next months could be a total game-changer, enough to turn the crazed pirate ship around and back to civilized shore for a complete do-over. But only if people vote as if their lives depend upon it. Because they do.