Sunday afternoon, the drive to collect 1.5 million verified signatures and trigger a recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom reached a couple of milestones. First, the effort’s organizers announced at a Sacramento news conference that they had met their goal of 1.95 million signatures they believe are enough needed to withstand the verification process.
It was uncanny good timing as it coincided with the last day of a 15-city statewide Recall Road Trip tour that also concluded at the Capitol steps in Sacramento. There, a more dubious milestone occurred with state GOP Chair Jessica Patterson and a member of the state Assembly sharing the stage with several speakers associated with violent speech, hate groups and QAnon.
“I think it’s shameful that a state legislator and the chairwoman of the Republican Party would share the same stage as these political extremists,” said Republican political consultant Mike Madrid. “The fringe has become mainstream in California Republican politics. It is very dangerous. It is very ugly, and it needs to be called out.”
The assemblyman was Republican Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. He was preceded on stage by speaker Cordie Williams, whose group 1776 Forever Free co-sponsored the rally. Williams was in D.C. on Jan. 6 and after the deadly insurrection posted a video of himself calling for Americans to arm themselves for a coming civil war. In a recent TV interview he explained, “I went to D.C. because I feel there are some forces at play in this country that are evil and demonic.”
Also speaking Sunday was Scott Presler. From 2017 to 2018, he served as national strategist for ACT for America, considered an “extremist hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and “the largest anti-Muslim group in the United States” by the Anti-Defamation League. For a series of nationwide rallies he organized for the group, Presler approved naming an avowed white supremacist to oversee a march in Arkansas. This individual in turn encouraged white nationalists to attend while fully armed.
Despite this background, another Recall Road Trip speaker, Buzz Patterson, invited Presler last year to train more than a hundred Patterson campaign staff and volunteers for his 2020 Congressional campaign against Ami Bera. During this campaign, Patterson was involved in multiple racially provocative online episodes and also confirmed online his support for QAnon, which he later deleted and denied any knowledge of after media inquiries.
Patterson also co-organized the Aug. 1 rally at which Williams spoke of Holocaust furnaces. The event featured blaming Democrats for the “planned-demic,” references to Democrats being possessed by demons, one speaker revving up the audience exclaiming, “We are not white supremacists,” and one call for all Democrats to be killed. Patterson’s co-organizer Brandon Straka has since been arrested for his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and another speaker was stripped of her State GOP Senate Leader position after posting conspiracy theories denying that the Jan. 6 riot were perpetrated by Trump supporters.
Another QAnon supporter, Crystal Tini, was also listed as a featured speaker at the recall rally but was unable to attend. She cohosts a podcast with Williams and last year posted long online videos supporting QAnon conspiracy theories.
“When you share a stage with this type of extremism, you give it credibility,” said Madrid about elected GOP officials like Patterson and Kiley. “You give it voice. You give it oxygen, and that’s the problem with the Republican Party.”
Attempts to reach Patterson and Kiley in the days before the rally were not responded to; however, the rally co-organizer Joe Collins III did reply. Last year, the Los Angeles native ran unsuccessfully for Congress against incumbent Democrat Maxine Waters. When reached by email last week, Collins dismissed concerns about the extremist backgrounds, beliefs and rhetoric of some of his speakers.
“Tell me about someone who is perfect... So who are we to judge?” —Recall Road Trip organizer Joe Collins III told the Sacto Politico
“It’s easy to try and dig up opinionated dirt on someone,” he continued. “The fact of the matter is anyone who is doing anything to create change is putting their butts on the line whether people agree with them or not, so who are we to judge?”
The African American businessman said his interest in recalling Newsom springs from so many small businesses permanently closing, skyrocketing homelessness, and the state’s increasing poverty, taxes and cost of living. He added that similar concerns were uniting “men and women both with good and bad past[s]” in the recall effort.
Like many speakers, Assemblyman Kiley used the event to sell his own merch. In his case, this was copies of his self-published book “Recall Newsom: The Case Against America’s Most Corrupt Governor.”
In it, Kiley called himself “recall reluctant,” but Sunday he sounded anything but. After his introduction to the stage, the Yale Law School graduate bathed in and appeared genuinely touched by an extended ovation he received from the mostly working class audience. He then launched into the event’s longest speech. It was a full-throated 12-minute denunciation of Newsom as a lawless, corrupt tyrant who has “fashioned himself in the mold of an ancient Roman-style dictator” and whose COVID policies are killing California children.
The remarks went over well with the rally audience Sunday, but Madrid called it part of the continuing “devolution” of the state Republican party.
“I can’t say this wasn’t predictable or that we didn’t see this developing for some time,” he said. “Most of the mainstream, rational voices have left, and the remaining [Republican officials] are not just courting but promoting the extremists. It is a natural trend line.”