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O.C. Supervisor Candidate Must Alter Title

Patricia Bates' ballot statement improperly refers to the Assembly seat she once held.

April 07, 2006|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

A retired assemblywoman running for Orange County supervisor must revise her ballot title for the June primary to eliminate a reference to her former job as a legislator, a judge ruled Thursday.

Former Assemblywoman Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) was to be listed as "Assemblywoman's volunteer representative" on the ballot. That will be changed to "businesswoman."

Bates is running for an open south Orange County supervisorial seat, held by Supervisor Tom Wilson, who must leave at year's end because of term limits. She was elected to the Assembly in 1998 and left in 2004, also because of term limits.

Laguna Niguel Councilman Mike Whipple sued on behalf of another supervisorial candidate, Cathryn DeYoung, a fellow Laguna Niguel council member. The suit argued that state law required candidates to accurately reflect their occupation, profession or trade on the ballot.

"It was misleading," DeYoung said of Bates' title. "She was trying to bootstrap in that she'd been an Assembly member. You just can't do that."

Bates argued the moniker was appropriate because she worked 25 hours a week as an unpaid volunteer for her successor, Assemblywoman Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel). Bates and her husband, John, also own an architecture business in Laguna Hills.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Charles Margines ruled that Bates' volunteer work was more of a "hobby or avocation" and not a primary source of income. She could have called herself a "community volunteer," he said, but only if she did no other work and received income from no other source.

Being listed as businesswoman shouldn't hurt Bates in the long run, said Dave Gilliard, her campaign consultant. As a former legislator and council member, she is "a fixture" in the community, he said.

But he acknowledged that the ballot title would have helped remind voters of Bates' former office. DeYoung so far has dwarfed Bates in campaign spending on mailbox brochures and cable TV ads introducing herself to district voters -- about $1 million compared with $100,000 for Bates.

"This was a way for a wealthy candidate to get us to spend money on legal fees," Gilliard said. He said the court ruling would not be appealed.

When such cases come before them, judges often intervene, since many voters use the information in selecting candidates.

A title must -- in three or fewer words -- reflect a candidate's occupation, profession or trade within a year of running for office. Statements are restricted to a candidate's plans and qualifications, and cannot be used to disparage an opponent.

Last week, in the sheriff's race, sheriff's Lt. Bill Hunt was ordered to remove a sentence from his ballot statement, which was deemed an attack on the incumbent, Michael S. Carona.

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