Voter GuideBoard of Equalization
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State Board of Equalization

Do you have a passion for uniform and consistent tax administration? Does the mere thought of improperly valued private railroad cars keep you up at night? Do you enjoy explaining to people at dinner parties that — no, really — you are an elected official who represents roughly 10 million Californians? Then consider applying for one of four elected seats on the only publicly elected tax commission in the United States.

Qualifications:

  • Sufficiently detail-oriented to oversee and occasionally audit the state’s 58 county assessor’s offices to ensure they’re taxing property the right way
  • Conflict resolution skills a plus, as you will be the person that insurance companies, liquor distributors, utilities and ticked-off taxpayers in the state complains to when they have a beef with their tax bill
  • Post-2017 update: Willingness to share and be a team player, since most of the board’s actual responsibilities have been given to other agencies

Compensation

$163,917 per year + a relatively low-stress job while you plan your next run for office, be it for governor, state controller or treasurer.

About the hiring process:

This job isn’t what it used to be. Until 2017, board members got to oversee the collection of one-third of all the taxes paid across the state and supervised a staff that numbered in the thousands. But then legislators decided to strip the board of most of its powers. What convinced them? Maybe it was the time a board member spent $130,000 on office furniture. Maybe it was after actor Rob Lowe accused a member of using an anti-Semitic slur during an income tax dispute. Maybe it was after an audit found that a member had directed the agency’s civil servants to perform “parking lot duty” at a campaign event. Or maybe it was because this was all the same member, Jerome Horton. Who can say?

While board members may no longer have as much to do, that hasn’t stopped a raft of candidates from applying. 

Incumbents Ted Gaines, an El Dorado Hills Republican, and Tony Vazquez, a Los Angeles Democrat, both earned more than half of the vote in the June primary. For November, neither are facing particularly stiff or well-financed opposition in opponents in Democrat Jose Altamirano and independent Y. Marie Manvel, respectively.

For the board’s second district, which runs along the coast from the Oregon border to Ventura County, there was a real battle to take the place of current incumbent, Malia Cohen, who is hoping for a promotion to the state’s controller’s office. Former San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, a relative moderate on fiscal issues, faced off against Mountain View City Council member and former Assemblymember Sally Lieber, a staunch progressive. Lieber came out on top and will be competing against long-shot Republican Peter Coe Verbica in November. 

Seven candidates crowded into the race to represent the board’s fourth district, which includes everything south of Los Angeles. That’s probably because they saw Democratic incumbent Mike Schaefer as uniquely vulnerable. The octogenarian lawyer was a perennial long-shot candidate for higher office until he stumbled into a surprise victory in 2018. He’s been endorsed by the state party for reelection this year, never mind that he’s been disbarred, convicted of spousal abuse and sued for being a slumlord

His many challengers this spring included a phalanx of SoCal conservatives: a former Assemblymember, a Huntington Beach city councilmember, and a one-time spokesperson for the 2021 Gavin Newsom recall campaign. But it was Schaefer’s lone Democratic challenger, David Dodson, a staff supervisor at the board, who nabbed the coveted second spot. With all of Schaefer’s liabilities as a candidate, that should make for a real race in November. 

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District 1

Applicants

  • Democratic
  • Republican
  • American Independent
  • Green
  • Libertarian
  • Peace & Freedom
  • No Party
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District 2

Applicants

  • Democratic
  • Republican
  • American Independent
  • Green
  • Libertarian
  • Peace & Freedom
  • No Party
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District 3

Applicants

  • Democratic
  • Republican
  • American Independent
  • Green
  • Libertarian
  • Peace & Freedom
  • No Party
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District 4

Applicants

  • Democratic
  • Republican
  • American Independent
  • Green
  • Libertarian
  • Peace & Freedom
  • No Party
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