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Notes from the Hustings 

It's So Simple

Chelene Nightingale, the American Independent Party candidate for governor of California, is a big believer in breakfast. Real breakfast. Ortega omelette, home fries, salsa. Mama's, the downtown Eureka diner, turned out to be an inspired backdrop for an interview -- classic Americana, but with a touch of Humboldt-style funkiness and -- crucially, for this candidate -- a wide selection of hot sauce to choose from. (On a tip, she went with a bottle of local Weitchpec Chile.)

Comfort food sauced up to kick; Nightingale's candidacy in a nutshell. This was Thursday morning, a few hours before she was scheduled to speak at the Tax Day Tea Party Rally at the Humboldt County Courthouse. A Los Angeles-based anti-illegal immigration activist in her mid-40s, a former actress and model, she spent an hour that morning stumping heatedly over her plate. Her pitch is exactly what voters want to hear, Nightingale says, and she intends to win.

"All I am is a liberty candidate," she says, a few moments after ordering. "That's all I talk about -- liberty, freedom, the economy, the things that people want to talk about these days."

Over the course of an hour, Nightingale talked about many things -- agriculture, environmentalism, the economy, marijuana, the state legislature, the existence or nonexistence of Barack Obama's birth certificate, Bilderberg-led plots to depopulate the world and consolidate power -- but underlying all her vehement policy particulars was a strong political philosophy: America, she stated many times, faces a choice between "Marxism" and "the Constitution." More often than not, sadly, it chose Marxism. The cure for our ills is simple: choose "the Constitution" instead.

For example. Agricultural interests in the Central Valley are suffering from water shortages, even while water is allowed to flow downstream in the name of Sacramento Delta salmon preservation. Solution? Easy: Simply authorize local law enforcement agencies to turn on the spigot to the fields, and arrest and incarcerate any federal agent who tries to insist otherwise. "People are more important than fish," she says. "Period." Nightingale hadn't heard anything about the Klamath River crisis or the proposed settlement, but she is certain that a solution would likewise be simple to find so long as the feds were barred any role in the negotiations.

Bottom line: In Nightingale's version of things, the only thing holding us back from realizing all our dreams is to reject the globalist agenda that she believes has taken over the federal government, much of which is unconstitutional and illegitimate, anyway. Abolish the income tax. Secure the borders. Reassert state's rights. Just get rid of all the craziness that's been going on in this country, and get back to basics.

"The sky is the limit," Nightingale says. "I don't know why I'm thinking of Donald Trump right now, but look how wealthy he is. He uses his own money. He goes and he builds. He has employees. He could be a country within himself. And I think that's an example we need to follow."

-- Hank Sims

Dem Votes, Dem Votes

Last Wednesday evening, the Humboldt Democratic Central Committee held an unorthodox meeting flooded with curious onlookers and eager candidates seeking endorsements in the June 8 primary election. Fourth District Supervisor incumbent Bonnie Neely got the nod, but the committee failed to reach the two-thirds threshold required to officially support candidates in the key contests for Fourth District Supervisor and district attorney.

"We're a victim of our own success," joked HCDCC Chair Milt Boyd, referencing the unusually large number of Democratic candidates vying for endorsements. All four DA contenders were present, as were the three aspirants for Fourth District Supervisor, two of whom -- Neely and Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass -- used to be Republicans, mirroring the shift in the county as a whole.

At stake was the county Dems' seal of approval for two supervisor seats, district attorney, assessor and auditor-controller. The latter was an easy one (Joe Millett, the lone candidate, earned their blessing), but each other contest saw candidates saunter to a podium where they attempted to outsell their opponents to the panel of 25 committee members. It wasn't a cold-sell; candidates had previously submitted written responses to committee questionnaires, and clearly some HCDCC members had already made up their minds. (Charlene Cutler-Ploss, for example, sported an "Allison Jackson for DA" button.)

With 25 voting members present, the magic number for endorsement was 17. After listening to each candidate's four-minute presentation -- followed in most cases by two minutes of Q and A -- the committee dismissed the candidates, then reconvened to cast their votes. (This without debate, to the disappointment of several in attendance including a noticeably annoyed Shane Brinton, Arcata City Councilman and staunch Paul Hagen supporter.)

With 18 yea votes, Neely earned endorsement on the first tally of the evening, besting Eureka City Councilman Jeff Leonard and Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass, who faced skepticism about her recent party switch.

The district attorney contest, which featured a crowded field of four Democrats, suggested a heated battle yet to come. Incumbent Paul Gallegos failed to earn the committee's blessing, garnering just 10 yea votes to 11 nays and four abstentions. Hagen also fell short with four yeas. Allison Jackson made a strong showing with eight yeas and 13 nays, while Kathleen Bryson failed even to earn a motion for consideration.

The Fifth District match also ended in a draw with both Pat Higgins (12 yeas, nine nays) and Patrick Cleary (11 yeas, 11 nays) falling short. Assessor hopeful John Brooks bested incumbent Mari Wilson by barely reaching the 17-vote threshold.

Offstage, Republican challengers wait in the wings. In some of the races, anyway.

-- Ryan Burns

Charge of the Underdog

A handful of people gathered inside the meeting hall of the Samoa's Women's Club last Saturday, sipping coffee and feasting on pastries while they discussed the concerns facing the Samoa Peninsula with Jeff Leonard, a candidate for the Fourth District Humboldt Board of Supervisor seat. And it was ironic, in a way, to have a large campaign sign for Virginia Bass looming across the way.

It paints a picture of the battle manifesting itself for that hotly contested seat, a battle of two titans -- incumbent Bonnie Neely and Bass, Mayor of Eureka -- who have raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars and have support from powerful interests while Leonard plays the role of the underdog. But it is perhaps the oodles of cash in the race that drives Leonard to craft himself as the independent as he attempts to build a base of support at the grassroots level. This isn't to say Leonard isn't raising and spending cash of his own, just not as much.

"Our campaign is all about trying to make deep connections with a couple people at a time," Leonard said.

This meeting was one of many such intimate neighborhood gatherings Leonard has organized to sell himself to the Fourth District. What Leonard has discovered while conversing with those within the Fourth District, he says, is a sense that Eureka is being left out of the county loop. So he has taken up a Eureka-centric flag, pledging to address the fallout from various county programs like drug treatment facilities.

But Leonard has ideas for how to help the county as a whole. He is passionate about developing green industries and points to Pacific Gas and Electric's proposed wave energy project as an example of how the area can bring in jobs and green-tech street cred. He also wants to finish projects that are lingering in limbo, such as the Balloon Track/Marina Center project and the rail-to-trail conversion between Eureka and Arcata.

Leonard didn't have all the answers to the problems facing the peninsula: The aftershock of the Samoa Pulp Mill's closure, issues with sewer and water infrastructure, and the Samoa Peninsula Fire District, financially bleeding to death with a $100,000 deficit and resorting to fundraisers (one coming up May 8) for survival. But he did have the will to get involved, bring people together, and figure out a solution.

"I'm not interested in being a big fancy politician," he said. "I'm interested in being a partner."

-- John Osborn

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