California County recalls top official, giving militia-aligned group a path to government | California

Voters in far northern California have upheld the ousting of a Republican county official, giving control of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors to a group backed by local militia members.

Leonard Moty, a retired police chief and Republican with decades of public service, lost his seat in a recall election in one of California’s most conservative counties. Tuesday’s recall came as tensions peaked in the county after two years of threats and growing hostility toward moderate Republican officials over pandemic health restrictions.

“I really thought my community would step in and they didn’t and that’s very disheartening,” Moty said in an interview with The Guardian earlier this week, warning that the recall would move the area to “the alt -right”.

Updated polling figures released on Friday showed about 56% of 8,752 voters supported Moty’s recall. Cathy Darling Allen, the county’s registrar of voters, said there were about 121 ballots left to count. The results won’t be finalized until next month, but the two leading candidates to replace Moty attended a celebration Tuesday with members of an area militia, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The recall is a victory for the county’s ultra-conservative movement in its effort to gain a foothold in local government in this rural northern California swath and fight moderate Republicans who they say have not done enough to Resist state health rules during the pandemic. .

Although Shasta County has been among the least restrictive in California amid Covid, residents unhappy with the state’s rules and mask requirements have been showing up to meetings in large numbers since 2020. Moty and d’ others were subjected to what law enforcement said were “credible threats” and personal attacks during meetings – one person told her that bullets are expensive, but “ropes are reusable”.

Experts have warned that the pandemic and eroding trust in American institutions have fueled extremism in local politics and hostility against officials. In Shasta County, the successful recall campaign will likely create more conflict between local government and state government, said Lisa Pruitt, a rural law expert at the University of California, Davis.

Carlos Zapata, a local militia member who helped organize the recall efforts, told the council in 2020 that there could be blood on the streets if supervisors don’t reject state health rules like than mask requirements.

“It’s a warning for what’s to come. It’s not going to be peaceful any longer. It’s going to be real… I’ve been in combat and I never wanted to go back, but I tell you what – I’m going to stay in this country. If it is to be against our own citizens, it will happen. And there are a million people like me, and you won’t stop us,” he said.

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