LODI – Steve Ding drew applause inside Hutchins Street Square and protests on the streets outside. The San Joaquin County Supervisor said he simply had something to say, and the protesters had every right to voice their displeasure.
Ding, who represents part of east Stockton along with Lockeford, Clements, Thornton, Woodbridge and Lodi in the county’s 4th District, was making a scheduled appearance Friday evening at the controversial San Joaquin Freedom Fest. He was invited to speak at the event in his capacity as the head of the county’s Election Advisory Committee.
The event, hosted by the San Joaquin Conservatives, featured keynote speaker Kari Lake, the former candidate for governor of Arizona and vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, and physicist Douglas Frank, both of whom have long claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Ding says he has no interest in discussing the national issues. Local issues made the entirety of his remarks during the event, saying San Joaquin Count has serious election integrity issues.
“I don’t care about anybody else. I care about election integrity in San Joaquin County,” Ding said. “I was elected to represent San Joaquin County. I’ve always been good at knowing what hat I wear, and that’s the hat I wear.”
The protesters outside the event strongly, which numbered between two and three dozen, disagreed with his assessment.
“I came out here because I think our country is in dangerous times and our democracy is teetering on the edge, and election deniers are adding fuel to the fire,” Stocktonian Allyson Aranda said. “I think the misinformation that Kari Lake is spreading is dangerous. … And I think the appearance of one of our county supervisors is dangerous in that he is lending credence to these unfounded claims.”
“I think there’s a lot of people, you can see it the county level, who are questioning the elections when there is no actual credible evidence that there has been any fraud,” Aranda said.
During the week before Friday’s event, petitions were started to ask Ding not to appear with “election deniers,” and there were a couple of dozen protesters organized by the Greater Lodi Area Democrats (GLAD) planted on corners around the venue. Signs included one which stated “STEVE DING SHAME ON YOU.”
Before the event, Ding said he supported the right to protest.
“I hope they thank a veteran for giving them the right to stand on the corner to protest,” he said.
Chris Young, the head of GLAD, said he didn’t expect a huge group of protesters, but saw a larger turnout that he anticipated.
“It’s a little more than I expected,” Young said. “It’s important that we are here because the information that they spew needs to be challenged all the time, or other people might fall for it.”
Lake, a Republican lost Arizona’s governor race to Democrat Katie Hobbs in 2022. She filed a lawsuit to overturn the results, but it was rejected. She claims she and Trump were robbed in the elections.
She drew the most ire of the protested outside Hutchins Square, but like Ding, said they had a right to their opinions.
“When I first got here, I said I wanted to go talk to the protesters,” Lake said. “They told me they love California. … I asked they if that wanted to make sure their vote counted. That’s all the people of Arizona want.”
The people outside on the streets strongly disagree with Lake’s opinions regarding election integrity, according to Renee Elliott, the leader of the Stockton Democrats Together.
“It’s always important to let the community know that we are here, we are united and we believe in facts,” Elliot said. “We believe in upholding our democracy, one person one vote.”