One of the most potentially heated judicial races in recent memory could be Deputy District Attorney Karen Schatzle’s challenge to unseat sitting Judge Scott Steiner. I say “could be” because so far in this campaign Judge Steiner has been virtually invisible.
After Judge Steiner ran aground on a series of ethical violations that included engaging in sexual relations with at least two women in his chambers at the County Seat’s downtown courthouse in Santa Ana, neither one of them his wife, he was seriously rebuked by the California Council on Judicial Performance (CA CJP). That prompted Schatlze to file for his seat in a bid to eject the “Honorable” Steiner from the bench.
This may be the first time, ever, that a Deputy District Attorney has actually challenged an incumbent judge in Orange County. Lore has it that the incumbent designation wins the day…. But in Orange County the title “Deputy District Attorney” is remarkably potent.
Last year Superior Court Commissioner Carmen Luege opposed Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Ferguson for an open seat, and Ferguson easily trounced the Commissioner with almost 63% of the vote. The DA title easily sidelined that of Commissioner.
So with Judge Steiner’s sex-stained robes, and DDA Schatzle’s strong title, this could become the first upset race in three decades, where a District Attorney sends even the incumbent judge packing.
So where is Scott Steiner? Reviewing his campaign financial filings with the CA Secretary of State, he does appear to have hired Scott Hart as his consultant. Yet Steiner has no website. He has no social media presence. And he isn’t showing up at major political events where he could get some traction with the voters. He hasn’t trumpeted a collection of endorsements either. This is somewhat surprising, because Steiner’s father was former Chairman of the OC Board of Supervisors William “Bill” Steiner, who was known as an agile and able campaigner and political dealmaker in his day. Bill Steiner understood how to leverage political power, but apparently his son Scott was the acorn that fell a bit too far from the tree.
Some political insiders I spoke with pointed out Judge Steiner originally ran un-opposed, so he wasn’t forced to raise serious money or face the rigors of a real political campaign. A judge in Central Court derisively labeled Scott as a “coattails candidate” who was soft and not up for a real race. And I’m paraphrasing here to protect the sensibilities of our more sensitive readers.
In stark contrast, his opponent began quickly gathering several crucial law-enforcement related endorsements. She’s begun to line up appearances at several Republican events, including the very OC-influential Republican Women’s Federated, where she expects her message of Steiner as an over-sexed ethical miscreant will get the ladies’ support. Last year she raised slightly over $55,000. After spending a little over $35,000 she had $22,000 on hand at the beginning of this year.
Judge Steiner, meanwhile, raised more money overall — $77,000 for the year, and spent $36,000 of it leaving almost $48,500 in his war chest after New Years. But the disparity is deceptive, for according to the CA Secretary of State, Steiner reserved several slate mailers. You can reserve the slates on the cheap, but then you have to kick down the rest of the cash, which could wipe out most of Steiner’s cash on hand for the election.
Campaign cash aside, the real question is which candidate places themselves, their persona, and their name before the voters better? So far that seems to be Karen Schatzle. Judge Steiner, so far, is a no show in public.
So the question remains: Judge Scott Steiner, where are you?
More on this race later, but for now,
KEEP IT ON THE QT!