Only a few weeks after receiving a controversial political appointment to a top "volunteer" position in the Los Angeles County assessor's office, assessor candidate Jim Keysor has claimed credit in his ballot statement for keeping the office efficient.
"As deputy assessor, I've used my legislative and business experience to keep the tax system fair, the assessor's office efficient," Keysor says in a pitch that will be included in the official pamphlet mailed to voters before the November election. Keysor also lists his ballot designation as "Deputy Assessor/Businessman."
Keysor, a former Democratic assemblyman, is facing Deputy Assessor John J. Lynch, a Republican, in a Nov. 4 runoff for the nonpartisan assessor's job. Lynch has worked in the assessor's office for 14 years.
Last month, Keysor, who finished second to Lynch in the June primary, was named an unpaid, part-time aide to Assessor Alexander Pope, who is leaving the office. Pope, who is supporting Keysor, failed in a bid for election to the State Board of Equalization.
Maneuvering Keysor into the assessor's office and a "deputy assessor" title has been criticized as a strategy designed to neutralize the advantage Lynch's title gives him. Lynch, considered a long shot, shocked himself and political observers when he led the field of 12 candidates by capturing 21% of the vote.
Keysor previously refused to say whether he would use the "deputy assessor" designation. On Thursday, Keysor's campaign manager defended the ballot statement, claiming that it "accurately reflects what Jim Keysor is doing."
Mark Ryavec, an aide to Pope, said Keysor has been lobbying for legislation, including a bill that would increase tax revenue for the county by closing corporate tax loopholes. Harvey Englander, Keysor's campaign manager, also said Keysor has been advising Pope on a "management reorganization plan."
"I think it's a charade," Lynch's campaign manager, Jack MacLean, said. "How can he make something efficient in two weeks?"
Keysor's appointment has been criticized by Republicans on the Board of Supervisors, as well as some of Keysor's own Democratic allies. One key Keysor supporter expressed disbelief Thursday at the latest developments, saying Keysor's attempt to take credit for efficiency in the assessor's office would backfire. "It's bizarre. . . . The press will have a field day," said the supporter, who asked not to be named.
But Englander said the potential benefits of the strategy outweigh the risks.
Lynch's "deputy assessor" designation is also misleading, Englander said, because it implies that Lynch has management responsibilities when he actually serves as a field appraiser.
He insisted that Keysor's actions have not been as deceptive as Lynch's. Lynch, a part-time attorney, declared that he was indigent to avoid paying the $52,000 fee for having his ballot statement printed in the voters pamphlet for the June primary. After winning a runoff slot, Lynch acknowledged that he could pay and negotiated a payment plan.