OC’s courthouse corridors are buzzing with news that Senior Deputy District Attorney Karen Schatzle will challenge Judge Scott Steiner for his seat. Steiner is vulnerable due to his recent and very public censure for courthouse sexcapades that included the sensational recovery of his DNA from courthouse carpet. That his chambers conquests included students he taught at law school don’t help the equation.
Local political lore – and actual experience – both show that it is nearly impossible for a challenger to bring down a sitting judge. In the last election cycle two incumbent judges – Derek Johnson and Joanne Motoike — easily beat back challenges to their re-election. The only judge to be unseated in the last quarter-century had child pornography on his work computer. Go figure.
And Judge Steiner has some powerful supporters. His father Bill Steiner, former OC Board of Supervisors Chairman, has been in political semi-retirement for years, but still wields tremendous influence throughout the Republican party. And at least three sources have confirmed Judge Steiner has already received the endorsement of District Attorney Tony Rakcauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. And as reported earlier, several high-dollar defense firms are banking on Judge Steiner to win.
But veteran prosecutor Karen Schatzle is a formidable opponent. She is a well respected OC prosecutor who sent lots of sex offenders to jail or prison. She has been a Deputy District Attorney for over twenty years, and was a Probation Officer before that for over eight years. She is a solid Christian Republican and single mom which will appeal directly to the Orange County conservative base.
She will nonetheless have to raise a lot of campaign cash, and personally campaign hard to be relevant and taken seriously. But if she does that… Judge Steiner may have to look for new digs sooner than he imagined.
But keep this on the QT!