Unofficial Primary Results Show Shasta County Choosing Incumbents Over Anti-Establishment Political Newcomers

Some of the experienced incumbent candidates have over 50% of the primary vote so far, numbers which would allow them to claim final victory without a runoff in November. Last night’s unofficial results appear to indicate Shasta County’s overall opposition to what some call constitutional candidates, political newcomers who challenged more politically experienced candidates in every local race.

Correction: 6.8.2022 11:41 pm: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the date when Darling Allen began serving as Shasta County Clerk. We have corrected our mistake.

It’s the day after California’s primary elections and in Shasta County, where many of the primary races were divided between only two candidates, some outcomes are almost certain.

According to information released by the county election office, a county candidate in a two-party race that receives 50 percent plus at least one additional vote to win the primaries will not need to move forward to the general elections in November to secure their seat.  After all the voting areas, or precincts, of Shasta County had reported last night, some but not all of the county’s more experienced candidates appear to have received the necessary 50 percent of votes to ensure victory. Election results are still unofficial and an official tally may take days or weeks to be completed. 

The six male political newcomers challenging experienced political candidates in the county are sometimes described as anti-establishment or constitutional candidates. They’re backed by money from the Liberty Committee which uses the slogan “Faith, Family and the Constitution,” and which is funded by out-of-county billionaire Reverge Anselmo who has called women generally unfit for office. 

They have embraced the idea of defying both government tyrants, and Shasta County’s established political systems. The term constitutional candidate seems to reference the constitutional sheriff movement which is closely connected to militia and sovereign citizens movements according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.. Like those who call themselves constitutional sheriffs, these candidates for a variety of Shasta County offices have indicated they will push back on state laws they see as unconstitutional and may also disrupt county systems seen as too compliant with the state’s perspectives.

This social media graphic describes six candidates funded by the Liberty Committee as “constitutional candidates.”

Here’s what we know now.

Sheriff Coroner:

Incumbent Sheriff Michael Johnson held a wide lead last night over his challenger John Greene with 64 percent of the vote. He is likely to win the primary and maintain his seat. Johnson was the Anderson Chief of Police for nine years before being appointed Shasta County Sheriff in July of 2021. He has campaigned on returning professionalism and integrity to the role of the sheriff in Shasta County, protecting constitutional rights, eradicating illegal marijuana grows, and building a new jail with integrated support services for mental health and substance use.

His opponent, John Greene, says he’ll focus on accountability, transparency, increased jail space, speeding up concealed carry permits, eradicating marijuana grows, decreasing cronyism, revitalizing inmate work release programs, and aggressive staff recruitment and retention.

Both Shasta County candidates for Sheriff have said they support the idea of a constitutional sheriff and agree with the philosophies of Sheriff Mack, a leader in the movement who founded the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association while serving on the board of the Oath Keepers, an organization connected with militia movements. Constitutional sheriffs are seen by their followers as the ultimate law enforcement authority, authorized to resist both state and federal officials on behalf of local county citizens.  The origins of the constitutional sheriffs movement has its roots in the Christian Identity movement and is connected to anti-government and anti-immigration groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Source: Shasta County Elections

Superintendent of Schools

The incumbent county schools superintendent, Judy Flores, received over 59% of the vote, beating out her challenger, Bryan Caples, and likely holding onto her elected position at the county. Caples is known as a constitutional candidate who ran on the campaign slogan “Students First,” opposing masking and vaccine mandates for students and staff and promoting back-to-the-basics curriculum and trade schools. Caples received significant media attention due to his rocky employment history and because of disturbing comments he made during a public forum about Native Students. 

Flores, who’s been Superintendent of Schools for five years, says she’s been focused on keeping students in classrooms during the pandemic, creating the Reach Higher Shasta initiative to promote student success after high school, and creating changes to policy and improved access to resources to help students with mental health, behavioral and school attendance barriers.

Source: Shasta County Elections

County Supervisors for Districts 1 and 5

The race for two open county supervisor positions was particularly important this year, after a successful recall of another county supervisor in February shifted the composition of the local board towards what some have described as an ultra-conservative majority. The new board quickly fired the county’s public health officer without cause and accepted the resignation of the county’s CEO, after he claimed to have been blackmailed by one of the board members.

In District 1, Erin Resner, a Redding City Council member and business owner faced off against political newcomer, and business owner candidate Kevin Crye, who is sometimes described as a constitutional candidate. Crye ran on parental choice regarding masks and vaccine mandates, improved public safety, and local government control and accountability.  

With all precincts reporting, Resner is currently winning against Crye with 49.54 percent of the votes but has not quite gained the required 50 percent plus one vote to ensure her victory in the primaries. Over the next few weeks the elections office will complete a canvass, including counting all provisional ballots and other ballots that require a hand count. Total vote counts are likely to change and could push Resner past the needed numbers to assure her primary victory. 

Resner has campaigned on government transparency, improving public safety through collaborative county treatments and programs, and improved responses to mental health needs. She’s been endorsed by Kymberly Vollmers, whose name is still on the ballot but who dropped out of the race in May, citing financial barriers. Vollmers has received over 9 percent of the vote.

Source: Shasta County Elections

In District 5 a field of five candidates divided the vote, leaving Baron Browning, the mayor of Anderson, short of the needed votes to ensure primary victory. Browning, who campaigned on increased resources for public safety, getting the unhoused off the streets, and investing in fire protection, was leading last night after all precinct votes had been counted with 46.56 percent of the vote. His most significant challenger is Chris Kelstrom, a constitutional candidate who has campaigned on increasing jail beds, reducing handouts to the unhoused, and refusing to accept state funds that come “with strings attached.” Kelstrom received 34.57 percent of the vote and will likely challenge Browning again in the fall general elections.

Browning replaces long-term county supervisor Les Baugh who has voted with newer board members to fire the public health officer, and is seen as part of the ultra-conservative majority on the board. Baugh, who is resigning from the supervisor position, has endorsed Browning and while Browning is not one of the six constitutional candidates backed by recall supporters, he has received just under $5,000 in funding from Anselmo. His opponent Chris Kelstrom has received financial backing from the heavily Anselmo-funded Liberty Committee. 

Source: Shasta County Elections

County Clerk 

Incumbent Cathy Darling Allen, who has served as the county’s clerk and register of voters since 2004, seems poised for primary victory with over 70% of the vote last night. She  campaigned on experience, transparency and efficiency. Darling Allen was opposed by Bob Holsinger, a former public utilities manager who was recently the county coordinator for the Election Integrity Project California, a non-profit which claims California’s November 2020 election was “marred by significant voting and registration irregularities.”

Holsinger has said that he does not believe Dominion voting machines, which are used in Shasta County, have negatively affected elections, but supports getting rid of them anyway because he believes it will promote healing in the county by addressing some voters’ fears. Numerous audits, investigations and court cases have debunked claims of election fraud using Dominion machines. 

Source: Shasta County Elections

District Attorney

The county’s current district attorney, Stephanie Bridgett held a sound lead over her newcomer opponent, Erik Jensen, a personal injury attorney, last night. Bridgett has received 58% of the votes with all precincts reporting making her likely to win the primary and maintain her elected seat as remaining ballots are counted. 

Jensen, who describes himself as a constitutional originalist, challenged Bridgett for the role with a campaign focused on “vigorous defense of constitutional rights,” that he says will protect the public from “common criminals” and “corrupt bureaucrats.” Jensen wants to use the role of DA to ensure fair elections and “zealously” prosecute quality of life crimes (a term often associated with the minor criminal violations of the county’s unhoused population.)

Bridgett, the county’s first female district attorney, has worked for the office since 2002, and was sworn in as the county’s district attorney five years ago. Bridgett’s campaign has focused on her efforts to support victims of crime, eradicate illegal marijuana grows in the county, promote transparency and community outreach, keep violent offenders in prison, and develop the county’s Chronic Offender Accountability and Focusing on Children Under Stress programs. 

Source: Shasta County Election

The county will continue to count ballots and report updated vote numbers in the days and weeks ahead. You can find ongoing updates to county election numbers here

Annelise Pierce is Shasta Scout’s Editor and Community Reporter covering government accountability, civic engagement, and local religious and political movements. You can contact her at [email protected] 

Do you have feedback to share? Email us at [email protected] or join the community conversation at Shasta Scout’s Facebook page. Do you have a correction to this story? Submit it here.

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