A call to all moderates

A Butte County resident since 1980. He and his family live in the Chapman community. You can email him at

If you read the letters to the editor in the local daily newspaper, it would be easy to conclude that, politically and philosophically, Butte County has only an extreme-conservative faction and an opposite extreme-liberal faction.

Yet, two electoral events within the past year indicate otherwise. For City of Chico voters, it was the sound defeat of the Otterson Drive fiasco. A fast-moving grassroots effort brought down another slick, well-financed conservative campaign, and the best thing about it was that the opposition truly came from the middle. The second event was Steve Benson’s successful and true grassroots campaign for Superior Court judgeship in 2000.

While both campaigns—by label—were non-partisan, campaign funding clearly indicated that some supporters and foes represented established political parties. At the same time, it was also clear that supporters were quite capable of crossing party lines.

Moderates won the Otterson measure in an election absent the normal Chico student population. Moderates supported Steve Benson during a tough countywide campaign against a very good candidate. Now, I believe that moderates on are the verge of taking control of the next round of county elections.

Two non-partisan offices will be on the next ballot, county supervisor and county sheriff. If those who endorse neither the extreme right nor the far left mount the kind of grassroots campaigns that elected Benson and defeated Measure A, the political profile of this county can change. It will be a change for the better.

The conservatives already have their man wearing the badge of sheriff. And now, they want the seats of Supervisors Mary Anne Houx and Jane Dolan. I believe, though, that there are too many good men and women out there who can make just a minimal effort and sufficient noise to ensure that moderate candidates can prevail in Butte County.

In the last election, the moderates truly believed that their candidate, Assistant Sheriff Perry Reniff, would be elected sheriff over a man that previous sheriffs had disregarded, Scott MacKenzie. While marginal as a law enforcement administrator, Mackenzie proved to be a very astute politician. He appealed from the beginning to fringe groups, focusing on the Upper Ridge groups that ultimately put Kim Yamaguchi into a supervisor’s office. This Ridge coalition, and its counterparts in the other rural areas of the county, may be running out of steam, however.

Yamaguchi’s partisanship is becoming very clear with time, and his recent redistricting plan failed to gain support from many conservative colleagues. And Mackenzie’s benevolent approach toward gun ownership advocates is backfiring.

Moderates can find and support honest candidates who are not carrying excess political baggage. Moderates can contribute $5 per household and eliminate the need for campaign financing from recognized, heavy-handed special-interest groups.

Moderates just need to speak out.