Michelle Steel’s Chance

After the 2012 presidential election, politicians, pundits and pollsters were obsessing over the staggering 71 percent of the Hispanic vote that President Obama received. What many ignored was the fact that there was an even more incredible figure about a racial group that had, until recently, voted Republican. That group is Asian Americans, giving Obama 73 percent of their vote on Election Day.

In Orange County, Republicans are trying to change that. One of those Republicans trying to change this status quo is Michelle Steel, currently the highest-ranking Republican constitutional officer in California and candidate for Orange County’s Second Supervisorial District.

Born in South Korea, Steel came to the United States and received degrees from Pepperdine and USC. While studying at Pepperdine, she met Shawn Steel while taking tennis lessons at the Ambassador Hotel. He noticed her because “she looked like she could really hit that ball and slam it well.” Soon after that first encounter at the tennis courts, they started dating.  Her now-husband, Shawn Steel is a former Chairman of the California Republican Party and currently serves as California’s Republican National Committeeman. Married in 1981, they settled in Palos Verdes and, then, Orange County with their two children, Cheyenne and Siobhan.

While in college, Steel worked at her mother’s clothing store. She had to support her mother, who didn’t speak English. And because her parents were hard-working small business owners, Steel has “always been about family values, smaller government and not accepting government handouts. I’m a first generation immigrant, and as a first generation immigrant, I had to be a Republican.” These conservative values would be put into great effect as CA government policies often attempt to abuse small business owners.

Steel’s mother encountered these abusive policies and regulations when she owned her clothing shop. The Board of Equalization accused her of cheating the state out of her taxes, and knowing that it would be impossible for her to fight the government and win, Steel explained, “My mom paid the taxes she didn’t owe, along with the penalty and interest on top of it.” Seeing this direct abuse by the government, Steel became actively interested in politics. “I can’t just sit at home and be a housewife. I wanted to be a bridge” between the people and their representatives in government.

At first, Shawn tried to keep her from going into politics, attempting to protect her. But he could not hold back her desire to help small business owners and implement the conservative values her experiences have instilled in her.

Her first political position was an appointment by then-mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, to the Los Angeles Fire Commission. And in the years following, she secured positions on multiple national boards including the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

After she was elected to the Board of Equalization, which is the state agency in charge of taxation, she saved California taxpayers $42 million in 2007 alone. Last year, she returned over $200 million back to the taxpayers through her efforts at BOE. Representing more than 8 million people — a quarter of California’s population — she has stood in defense of the taxpayer when it comes to pocketbook issues and has tried to save the people of California from abusive taxation by the government. Her experience on the BOE would be a worthy asset to her as supervisor because, as Steel points out, she “works with taxpayers. I work with them individually. Looking at the budget, I know how to save.”

This contrasts with her opponent, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, who Steel claims “has always been about public offices and never really worked in the private sector.” Because of her prior experience, Steel knows “how the private sector is trying to survive” under the weight of California’s massive amount of taxes and regulation. Assemblyman Mansoor, who has held elective office for the past 12 years, “was the one who raised taxes” on his fellow Californians according to Steel.

As the country’s highest-ranking Korean American elected official and the highest-ranking Republican woman in California, Steel knows how to reach out to both women and minorities, two groups with which Republicans need to make serious inroads. “The Republican Party is changing. We need to learn how to relay our message because we are not really good at that,” as exhibited in recent elections. Her endorsements from countless Republican officials, conservative organizations, and community leaders demonstrate the confidence people have in her and what she is capable of accomplishing for her constituents.

Steel’s life story, her conservative beliefs, and her appeal to both women and minorities represent a bright light in, what could be, a fading future for the Republican Party. Hopefully, voters will see that and elect Michelle Steel, the taxpayer’s advocate, as Orange County Supervisor.

Tyler Warman is a junior attending Hillsdale College, where he studies politics and classical education. Tyler can be reached at twarman@hillsdale.edu.