REGION — 49th Congressional District candidate Brian Maryott has officially changed his ballot designation after a complaint filed by Republican primary challenger Supervisor Lisa Bartlett alleged the former San Juan Capistrano mayor misled voters about his professional employment status.
Per documents published online by the California Secretary of State’s Office, Maryott changed his job title from “Certified Financial Planner” to “Businessman/Nonprofit Executive” for the June primary ballot.
In a statement issued Monday, Bartlett claimed state officials had forced Maryott to change his ballot designation as a result of a complaint her campaign had filed last week.
“The decision by the Secretary of State to force Brian Maryott to change his ballot designation only further confirms what we already knew – Maryott is deliberately misleading voters and pretending to be someone he’s not,” Bartlett said in a statement.
However, Maryott’s campaign has strongly denied Bartlett’s allegations and said he voluntarily made the change as a result of issues unrelated to the complaint.
“We recently and pro-actively amended our ballot title with the Secretary of State’s office, making a change unrelated to any threats from desperate candidates,” said Megan House, Maryott’s campaign manager, in a statement. “The CFP Board of Standards does not allow Certified Financial Planner professionals to advertise our credentials without the trademark, and the Secretary’s office does not allow the use of trademarks.”
In response to a request for comment, the Secretary of State’s Office issued the following statement regarding its decision to change Maryott’s ballot designation, clarifying that the agency made its decision independently and not specifically based on Bartlett’s request.
“We don’t approve/disapprove a ballot designation based on 3rd party complaints. We do receive them, but don’t base our review on them,” said Joe Kocurek, a representative for the state office. “We review the ballot designation worksheet and any accompanying materials provided by each candidate, then we reach out to a candidate if we find there is an issue of any sort with their proposal. We spoke with this candidate and we came up with a ballot designation that was acceptable for him and us.”
Maryott has previously denied any wrongdoing in his campaign filings, arguing that his certification as a financial planner still remains active. Maryott acknowledged that he no longer practices financial planning or provides investment advice and that he is not active with any brokerage.
According to relevant state codes, a candidate’s profession as listed on the ballot to voters must be that individual’s current occupation or vocation.
“In order for a ballot designation…to be deemed acceptable by the Secretary of State, …each proposed principal profession, vocation or occupation submitted by the candidate must be factually accurate, descriptive of the candidate’s principal profession, vocation or occupation must be neither confusing nor misleading,” the law reads. “…The candidate’s proposed ballot designation is entitled to consist of the candidate’s current principal professions, vocations and occupations.”
According to Robert Stern, a retired attorney and former elections counsel to the Secretary of State’s Office, the successful result of Bartlett’s complaint is a win for her campaign, as such ballot designation challenges are rarely so swiftly resolved. What impact the challenge will have on the June primary is unclear however, at least for now, Stern added.
“It’s very unusual for the Secretary of State to deny a candidate’s occupational status,” Stern said. “I’d guess it only happens a handful of times each year. So yes, it’s a win for the candidate filing the complaint. It’s also significant in the sense that voters get a lot of information from the three-word title candidates use to describe themselves on the ballot. If a candidate doesn’t raise a lot of money or isn’t as well known, that can really be something that identifies you to voters and lets people know who you are.”
Bartlett’s campaign may also challenge Maryott’s new ballot designation as a businessman/nonprofit executive with the Secretary of State, according to her campaign manager Tim Lineberger.
In the current election cycle, other candidates across the region have filed complaints against their opponents over their ballot designations with mixed results.
Most notably, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear filed a complaint on March 16 with the Secretary of State against Democratic primary challenger Joe Kerr over his listed profession as “Retired Firefighter.”
However, Blakespear’s complaint was dismissed and Kerr, who served with the Orange County Fire Authority and Orange County Fire Department for over 34 years, including 27 years as a fire captain, was allowed to retain his ballot designation.