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George Boardman: Sizing up the candidates for county clerk-recorder

Three thoughts occurred to me as I watched the recent gathering of candidates for the county clerk-recorder race sponsored by the League of Women Voters:

∎ Don’t candidates give any thought to the questions they might be asked?

∎ I would have left the news business for public relations a lot sooner if I had to cover these events on a regular basis.

∎ I wondered how the Giants and Warriors were doing. (They both lost.)

Nobody was much interested in the clerk-recorder part of the job, instead focusing on the conduct of elections in Nevada County because, as we all know, skullduggery just had to be afoot during the 2020 president election.

It should be stated here that the conduct of elections in California is spelled out in voluminous state regulations and statutes that weigh as much as a sizable dumb bell. Whoever runs an election has to understand and implement them, but can’t change them.

Candidate Paul Gilbert made it clear from the get-go that he was motivated to enter the race by the presence of Natalie Adona, assistant registrar of voters who, Gilbert claimed, slandered and libeled his business, Citizen Auditors of Nevada County, calling it a “fraud.”

He didn’t take kindly to those characterizations, and claimed that his work uncovered several weaknesses in the voting process that created the possibility of fraud. Gilbert even pointed to the Post Office as a weak link in the chain of custody for ballots. He produced no evidence that any of this actually occurred.

Gilbert’s web site offers little insight into how he would conduct the affairs of the office, and lists no endorsements. I finally saw one of his campaign signs Friday, but he didn’t list any contributions during the most recent filing period. Being a stickler for transparency and accountability, I’m sure Gilbert would have reported contributions if he had any.

Jason Tedder, a former firefighter in the Navy, dodged the question at the forum about whether the 2020 presidential election was rigged, but said in closing remarks and written materials that he shares the “mutual concerns about the integrity of our elections” in 2016 and 2020.

Since Tedder has cited no examples of vote rigging or theft here or anyplace else, he apparently reflects the concerns of conspiracy-loving conservatives who buy into Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that millions of votes were stolen from him in California in 2016, and that the votes in several states were rigged in 2020.

But Tedder does have a plan for votes deposited in voting boxes, which account for a minority of ballots cast in Nevada County: Have a deputy sheriff accompany poll workers when they pick up the ballots and use GPS technology to track their progress to the Rood Center.

Nobody has employed this kind of security around here since Wells Fargo employees rode shotgun and Black Bart roamed the foothills. I see a business opportunity for Brinks.

When it comes to endorsements and money, Tedder is the establishment candidate in this race. He has raised significantly more money than Adona and lists supervisors Dan Miller and Ed Scofield, along with former supervisors Hank Weston and John Spencer, among his backers.

Miller, Weston and Spencer had no comments to offer at Tedder’s web site, but Scofield said, “Jason will bring stability and a new energy to the office of clerk-recorder.” He also contributed money to the campaign, a significant gesture for a man who tends to treat nickels like manhole covers.

Scofield may well believe that Tedder is the best candidate for the job, but I suspect the backing of Adona by current county Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz made this an easy decision. They have had their run-ins in the past.

In something that rarely happens in public in this county, Scofield and Diaz clashed in 2018 when Diaz came to the supervisors for $300,000 to fund the mailing of ballots to every registered voter in the county. They got into an argument over whether Diaz gave sufficient notice for the request, and the supervisors ended up punting the request to the budget subcommittee. Miller and Weston backed Scofield’s position.

Much like Gilbert, Tedder provides sketchy detail on his background. He says he has “studied engineering, agriculture, political science, art, government, and the law,” but nothing long enough to complete a course of study. Aside from attending Sierra College, there is no information on what he’s been doing the last 11 years. When he announced his candidacy on KNCO Feb. 24, Tedder said he was pausing his law school studies, where “I was getting A’s and doing really well.”

His campaign has put heavy emphasis on his service in the Navy and he suggested at the League of Women Voters forum that he was motivated to serve by 9/11. He didn’t mention that it took him until 2005 to enter boot camp.

That raises another interesting point. Tedder states on his web site that “Thanks to my military pension … I am able to spend a great deal (of) my time giving back to the community,” but he served just six years — well short of the 20 years required to be eligible for a military pension.

When I sent him an email seeking clarification on these issues, he ignored the question about his pension and instead listed his military awards. He wouldn’t name the law school he attended, or whether it is accredited by the American Bar Association. Tedder wrote that he took the LSAT, the law school entrance exam, but didn’t say if he passed. The voters can decide if this is the kind of transparency they’re looking for in a clerk-recorder.

Adona has her own baggage to bear, viewed with suspicion by some local conservatives because she has worked around the country, and brings a law degree to the office in a “small rural county tucked away in the foothills,” according to local blogger George Rebane on his Rebane’s Ruminations site

Rebane describes her as “our Soros (?) foreign plant assistant registrar of voters.” (For those who don’t know the name, George Soros is a billionaire investor who has contributed considerable sums of money to various liberal causes. He is viewed with great suspicion by many conservatives who don’t understand how such a rich guy can embrace the liberal agenda.)

In an online exchange with me and others, Rebane explained that Adona was “recently trained elsewhere and moved here for the registrar’s job…she is part of a dedicated and purposed cohort with a political agenda,” pointing to her work at the Democracy Fund, an “absurdly progressive and partisan political organization.”

The fund, started by one of those elitist Silicon Valley billionaires, states its purpose is “to improve the Democratic process in the United States so that it benefits voters.” They haven’t bought into Trump’s election fraud claims. “The important thing about Adona is to understand who she is and who are ‘her people’,” Rebane wrote.

Rebane’s original post was prompted by an ad run by the registrar’s office in The Union featuring a Q&A about who is eligible to vote and how to do it. The public service announcement, paid for by the county, featured Adona’s name, leading many — including me — to view it as a blatant attempt to promote her campaign.

Adona told The Union the ad was designed by a temporary employee, who copied an ad run in the past. “When it was brought to our attention that the Q&A could be misconstrued, we agreed that it was a good point and so the remaining Q&As will be from Greg (Diaz).”

The ad should have never gone out the door without a sign-off from Adona or Diaz, and nobody should have had to point out to either one of them that maybe this was a bad idea. As they say in tennis, an unforced error.

So there you have it voters: Two candidates with sketchy backgrounds who would be drawing six-figure salaries to learn on the job, and a qualified contender who shows questionable judgment. You decide.

George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at boredgeorgeman@gmail.com

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