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Daily Pilot

Judge: Steel must change ballot designation

Mansoor wins challenge to opponent in race for O.C. supervisor.

By Jill Cowan

2:57 PM PDT, March 31, 2014

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In a win for her opponent, Orange County Board of Supervisors candidate Michelle Steel will have to change her official occupation from "taxpayer advocate/businesswoman" to "Board of Equalization member" on the ballot, a judge has ruled.

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), who is running against Steel for the Board of Supervisors' 2nd District seat, had alleged in a lawsuit that the Surfside resident's chosen ballot designation was misleading.

Steel's role on the state Board of Equalization, which is tasked with considering tax appeals, is "quasi-judicial," the suit alleged, and that is her main job.

According to a court order dated March 25, Orange County Superior Court Judge Franz E. Miller agreed.

In addition to the change in Steel's ballot designation, which is the job title listed alongside candidates' names, the document ordered that a reference to Steel's status as a business owner be deleted from her candidate statement.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, who earlier declined a request by Mansoor to require Steel to drop the "taxpayer advocate/businesswoman" tags, said Friday that his office has already made the ordered changes.

Kelley and Steel were the named respondents in the suit.

Mansoor called the decision a "great victory."

"Deep down, I knew that the truth would come out, and we're glad with the outcome," he said Friday.

Dave Gilliard, a campaign consultant for Steel, said, "We think the judge got it wrong."

Steel, he said, is known on the Board of Equalization as an advocate for taxpayers when disputes arise. He added that she is the controller of husband Shawn Steel's law firm, which should allow her to use the title "businesswoman."

Going forward, though, Gilliard said, "It's not a big enough issue to worry about" to warrant further action.

"She's got plenty of opportunity to tell voters about her background and her history," he said, "and we're confident when they see that, they'll be receptive."

Steel's Twitter moniker is still @TaxFighterSteel.

She and Mansoor are vying to replace Supervisor John Moorlach, who will be termed out of the board's District 2 seat, representing parts of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, among other cities.

Joe Carchio, Huntington Beach city councilman and retired business owner, and Jim Moreno, governing board member of the Coast Community College District, are also running.

The statewide primary election will be held June 3.