Will ex-Costa Mesa mayor and current California State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor challenge Michelle Steel–a fellow but less-experienced Republican officeholder–for a soon-to-be open seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors?
That's the energetic buzz this week in Republican circles, in which Steel is the only formally announced candidate to replace outgoing Supervisor John Moorlach in June 2014.
Steel–vice chairperson of the California State Board of Equalization who only recently moved to Orange County and is thus open to a carpet-bagging attack–has garnered favor from many local Republican Party establishment players, including Scott Baugh and Michael J. Schroeder, a former state party boss.
Mansoor, a former Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy, is oil to Steel's vinegar, personality-wise. According to several political insiders who know both politicians, the two aren't fond of each other.
"A Steel-Mansoor match-up would be brutal," said one veteran GOP insider based in Sacramento. "They don't like each other."
Mansoor first won election to the state Assembly in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012 following a long career on the Costa Mesa City Council, where he solidified his conservative credentials.
GOP brass hasn't always considered Mansoor a loyal soldier because of his occasional independence.
For example, in a recent sheriff's race, he backed fellow rebel Republican Bill Hunt, an outspoken critic of the local party-establishment leadership.
Last year, Steel–who is married to ex-California Republican Party boss Shawn Steel–reported loaning her supervisor-race campaign committee $100,000, plus receiving about $11,000 in contributions.
Interestingly, one of those first contributors was fellow Korean American Susan Kang Schroeder, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' chief of staff and separated wife of Mike Schroeder, one of the county's most influential political players.
The Steel-Susan Schroeder close connection could come into play if, as rumors have persisted for several years now, Rackauckas retires before the end of his term and tries to get her appointed as his interim replacement.
If Schroeder can get support from at least three of the five supervisors under such a scenario, she will take control of the DA's office.
You can only imagine how much Schroeder nemesis Todd Spitzer, who recently joined the board, would want Mansoor, not necessarily a Schroeder fan, to help to block her ascent.
Given all that speculation, Mansoor hasn't formally announced his running for supervisor, and Rackauckas, who took control of the DA's office in 1999 and is 70 years old, continues to claim he plans to serve through 2018.