Republicans toot their horns at Mainstream America

LOVE FEST Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, R-Redding, hugs a retiring Bruce Sessions at this year’s Mainstreet America picnic.

LOVE FEST Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, R-Redding, hugs a retiring Bruce Sessions at this year’s Mainstreet America picnic.

photo by Tom Angel

Wally Herger shook hands, Sam Aanestad gave a speech about patriotism, Scott Mackenzie waved to a round of applause, Perry Reniff stumped for votes, and Bruce Sessions got a little teary-eyed at the annual Mainstream America picnic, held Saturday at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.

It was, as it always is, the Butte County Republican Party Central Committee’s main cheerleading and fund-raising event for the year. About 500 people—Republican faithfuls all—bought $20 tickets to eat tri tip and mingle with their county, state and congressional representatives. It was a far more modest affair than it has been in recent years—especially when it was held outdoors at the Chico Elks Lodge, and far more people attended.

Even so, just about every elected Republican in the county, along with Butte County’s state and federal representatives, attended Saturday’s event. Rep. Wally Herger made his annual appearance and appeared to have shaken every hand in the room by the time he was done. He seemed familiar with many of the attendees ("Tell her I said ‘Hi,'” he exclaimed to a man, heartily shaking hands). State Assemblyman Sam Aanestad was there in a suit, as well as Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, who left early for a birthday party.

Paradise Irrigation District Director Rick Hall manned the barbecue in jeans and a cowboy hat. City Councilman Rick Keene, who announced last week that he’s running for the state Assembly, attended in what looked like brand-new, uncomfortably stiff Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots.

The evening was billed as a tribute to firebrand KPAY radio talk show host Bruce Sessions, who’s retiring next month. City Councilman Steve Bertagna lamented that, without Sessions, “the county won’t be what it is now, with his common sense.”

“We’re all proof of his influence in our community,” Bertagna said, pointing out the conservative majority on the council. “We’ll miss you, my friend.”

Keene vowed to “find a way to keep [Sessions] involved in politics behind the scenes.”

Noticeably absent from the shindig was political consultant David Reade, who’s attended Mainstream America for years (in fact, he helped organize it several times). He’s come under fire recently for working with Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi to draft redistricting Plan 5, which is now the subject of an intense referendum effort.

Terrorism and patriotism, however, were what most people at the event were talking about. The themes were the focus of the short speeches the officials gave and the subject of the all of the items for sale there. Among them was a T-shirt, designed by the Central Committee, emblazoned with an eagle with a tear dripping from its eye and the sentence "Dear terrorists, Sleep with one eye opened. We’re coming."