Reporting from Sacramento — All four seats on California's elected tax board are up for grabs this November, but in three of the four contests incumbents have an inside track to reelection.
The low-profile Board of Equalization has been divided equally between two seats favoring Democrats and two favoring Republicans since its districts were last redrawn in 2001. Board members are charged with collecting state sales taxes, arbitrating taxpayer disputes with the government and determining which companies are eligible for California tax breaks.
Democratic board member Jerome Horton, an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is running for a full term in his Los Angeles County-based seat. He faces opposition from three minor-party candidates.
Incumbent Republican Michelle Steel of Rolling Hills, who represents much of Southern California outside of Los Angeles, faces perennial Democratic challenger Mary Christian Heising of La Jolla and three minor-party hopefuls.
Betty Yee of San Francisco, a Democrat who represents a sprawling coastal district that reaches from the Oregon border to Santa Barbara, is running against Republican Kevin Scott, a venture capitalist in Redwood City, and candidates from the Libertarian and Peace and Freedom parties.
The only open seat, which stretches from the tip of Los Angeles County through inland California all the way to Oregon, has long been held by a Republican. Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) is trying to keep the seat in GOP hands. Chris Parker, a tax counselor in Sacramento, is carrying the Democratic mantle, while two minor-party candidates are also competing.