Militia-Backed Recall Succeeds in Shasta County. Experts Warn It’s a Model for the Far Right.

What happened in Shasta County last Tuesday is something unprecedented in American politics. It could also be a harbinger of things to come. Thanks to growing political extremism and half-a-million dollars from a wealthy heir, a local militia appears to have succeeded in recalling a Republican supervisor who was deemed too moderate. The result will be a county board controlled by the fringe and what may be “the first militia backed majority in a public agency in the country,” according to Mike Madrid.

District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty is a former police chief and a self-described “Reagan Republican.” But in deep red counties like Shasta, Reagan Republicans have become passé. Voters want Trump Republicans who will openly defy public health orders during a pandemic and shout about Dominion voting machines. The results from the Feb. 1 recall currently have Supervisor Moty losing his seat by more than 1,000 votes.

Both of the frontrunners for Moty’s replacement are militia-aligned. Dale Ball is a popular figure whose community service has endeared him to many in Shasta. He also has a lengthy criminal record that includes brutally assaulting a 13-year-old boy. Tim Garman, who appears all but certain to win, is president of the Happy Valley School Board. He was supported by the State of Jefferson movement, which wants to see the North State secede from California. He led a crusade against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for teachers, administrators, and students at the Happy Valley Union Elementary School District. He’s not only against mandates, but against the vaccine itself.

Throughout the recall campaign, Moty and others were subjected to repeated threats of violence from supporters of the recall. Carlos Zapata, a local militia member who helped organize the effort, warned county leaders that “it’s not going to be peaceful much longer.” It wasn’t uncommon to see members of the Proud Boys, the Oathkeepers, and the Three Percenters at local meetings over the past year, shouting down the more conventional Republicans on the board — a dying breed.

There are also serious questions about some of the funding behind the recall campaign. The Fair Political Practices Commission has an open investigation into the matter. 

Experts on political extremism believe Shasta could be a model for the far right moving forward.

“Distrust in government has permeated the most local levels,” Colin Clarke, a terrorism expert, told The Guardian. “I’m familiar with the indicators of extremism and radicalization. I see them in places I never expected to see them. If you had told me as terrorism expert I’d be talking about school boards, I’d have said you’re crazy.”

If the results of Shasta’s recall tell us anything, it’s this: keep an eye on local government. That is where the battle for political norms will be fought.