Down to the wire In District 10 — Sonoma County and Marin

Nov 04, 2012 No Comments by

Democrats Michael Allen and Marc Levine are locked in an aggressive and contentious race for state Assembly District 10, which covers Marin County and part of Sonoma County. Under California’s relatively new top-two primary system, the top two vote getters in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election—leaving voters in this decidedly liberal, newly formed district in an interesting position deciding who to vote for. TheHabitDaily.com caught up with both candidates to find out more about their campaigns, experience, and the issues.

Michael Allen, currently state assemblyman for District 7 enjoys significant support from Democratic Party leaders in Sacramento as well as the local Marin Democratic Party. But he is a recent transplant to Marin and moved here because his District 7, representing Santa Rosa, Napa, and parts of Solano County and the Sonoma Valley, was redrawn as part of last year’s redistricting process. Marin Independent Journal, who have endorsed Allen, reported today that Allen’s campaign has raised more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions and received more than $700,000 in support from independent expenditure committees. He has garnered the endorsement of another local newspaper, the Pacific Sun.

Marc Levine is a young San Rafael City Councilman, with deep roots in the community. He is supported by many who see him as a local candidate with an understanding of local issues. The Marin IJ reports that Levine has received more than $253,000 in contributions and more than $250,000 in support from independent expenditure committees. He is endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle.

 “Why I’ve been so successful up there is one of the very first things I did is, rather than focusing on legislation my first year, I focused on relationships, both with Democrats and the Republicans.”  — Michael Allen

EXPERIENCE
Allen has a background in law and nursing and has spent the last two years in the state Assembly. He moved to San Rafael 14 months ago to establish residency in the newly drawn district and wants voters to consider his record. “Why I’ve been so successful up there is one of the very first things I did is, rather than focusing on legislation my first year, I focused on relationships, both with Democrats and the Republicans,” said Allen. Drawing on his experiences in nursing, he worked on bills to reform state mental hospitals, as well as co-authoring AB 340, which restructured pensions for state workers, and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. He also worked on the Middle Class Scholarship Act, which failed to pass the state Senate by two votes; he plans on revisiting the bill if re-elected. “That would have reduced tuition for UC students and CSU students by two-thirds; it also had about $350-$400 million in additional money for community colleges, so we’ll reintroduce it next year.”

Councilman Marc Levine worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign in Pennsylvania in 2008, before being elected to the San Rafael City Council in 2010. Levine says of his experience working on the Obama campaign, “What I was doing to help get Obama elected I want to do here locally. You have to be engaged, and you have to be involved. You can’t just go home from work and watch TV. It’s much better to be engaged in community.”

Levine counts among his successes helping San Rafael balance its budget during tough economic times and helping to reduce regulations for businesses that wanted to open in San Rafael’s West End Village area, bringing jobs to the community and making it easier for owners to establish small businesses. Like Allen, Levine has also taken part in the passing pension reform. He supported enacting pension reforms for San Rafael that provide secure retirement for city employees but help ensure funding for city services in the future.

Both candidates have been champions of green energy, with Allen being a founder of Solar Sonoma County, and Levine helping the city join the Marin Clean Energy Authority. “Not only does the city procure their energy from there, which is greener than PG&E’s, but also it allows all our residents and businesses to buy their energy from Marin Clean Energy rather than PG&E; that’s a very good thing,” said Levine.

VISION AND ISSUES
If re-elected, Allen would like to continue the reform of state mental hospitals, saying, “The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act is very antiquated and older, and it creates barriers to people getting the mental health treatment they need, which gives rise to incarceration and homelessness, which affects Marin and Sonoma County, and the entire state.” Allen sees room for both counties to share their gains on the clean energy front, saying, “I think Sonoma County has a lot to learn from Marin regarding energy aggregation, the Marin Energy Authority, and I think that Marin could really benefit from Sonoma County’s energy independence program, where people can get loans to solarize their homes.” He also plans on making the completion of the SMART rail line a priority, stressing the importance of the project’s completion “on budget, on time, and fully built out, not just to 31 miles.”

“We need to have stronger relationships between local government and the state, rather than the state looking at local schools and cities as an ATM every time there’s a budget problem. “ — Marc Levine

For Levine, changing Sacramento’s reliance on local government for finances is a top priority. “We need to have stronger relationships between local government and the state, rather than the state looking at local schools and cities as an ATM every time there’s a budget problem. And there’ve been very onerous legislation and restrictions placed upon cities by the Legislature, We need to do better so that we can restore the trust that has been lost.” Levine also sees education reform at preschool and primary school levels as necessary to promote students’ scholastic performance and opportunity later in life. He said, “If you look at the test scores from second-graders, if they score above proficient in basic skills like math and English. That’s the best predictor for college graduation.”

In addition to emphasizing early childhood education, Levine stresses the importance of funding for higher education: “Let’s not spend this money in second grade so that, 10 years later when they graduate high school, there’s not a college that wants to bring them in and then put them on a path to success in college as well.”

THE LAST ROUND
Despite each candidate’s optimistic view of the future, the campaign has grown into a hot and expensive slugfest. Mailers supporting Allen’s candidacy and attacking Levine are stacking up in voters’ mailboxes on a near daily basis. They label Levine as a shill for developers and big business. Late-breaking Levine mailers attack Allen and cite an ethics violation.

Levine charges the Democratic Party with trying to embed their candidate in our community and discouraging a challenge to their selection. “It’s very unfortunate,” said Levine, “here I am, a local councilman saying I want to be a part of cleaning up Sacramento, and making sure Sacramento serves our communities. And Sacramento has said we don’t want you. We want to force our guy on you. We’re gonna move our guy 45 miles into the district and we’re gonna put our money behind him. In fact, I was threatened. They said we’re going to spend a million dollars to defeat you. It’s taken over 2 million.”

“I did get the endorsement of the two newspapers (Marin Independent Journal and Pacific Sun), and the one thing that they agreed on was that they did not feel that my opponent was ready, that he’s only been on the council for two years, and that it takes a whole lot more than two years two work in the Assembly.”
— Michael Allen

When asked to compare Levine’s community roots with his own Allen said, “I did get the endorsement of the two newspapers (Marin Independent Journal and Pacific Sun), and the one thing that they agreed on was that they did not feel that my opponent was ready, that he’s only been on the council for two years, and that it takes a whole lot more than two years two work in the Assembly.” He continued, “Sonoma County is not France, it’s not that far away… the most important part of place is relationships. And I would just point out to you…that when I have all five on the Board of Supervisors, many city council persons in this area, and the local newspapers endorsing me, I think what that talks about is the fact that I’m developing the relationships, and so relationships, to me, are the most important aspect of community… I know my opponent has been saying that everybody got intimidated by the Legislature or the speaker to support me, but I don’t think you’re going to get the newspapers and the local Board of Supervisors, and people on city councils, I think that’s because they’ve sat down with me and they believe me that I’m sincere and that I’m going to work with them and do the job for them.”

We are the underdog, there’s no doubt about that, you can’t look at the money and say otherwise… but if things don’t go our way on Tuesday, again we accomplished a great deal. We showed that Sacramento can’t tell us what to do, and hopefully this is a model for other people to stand up to that.” Marc Levine

While Allen has nabbed the endorsements of the local newspapers, Levine was endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle, which commended Levine on running a race without the backing of his own party. When asked about the challenges of facing such negative attacks and the possible outcome of the race, Levine said, “My son’s 6, and he asked me the other day, because he’s aware of the campaign, he said, ‘Dad, are you winning?’… and I said to him, I don’t know, but I’m very proud of what we’re doing, and it’s about how we wage the campaign that’s really most important, and we’ll find out the outcome on election day, but it’s about being part of this… We are the underdog, there’s no doubt about that, you can’t look at the money and say otherwise… but if things don’t go our way on Tuesday, again we accomplished a great deal. We showed that Sacramento can’t tell us what to do, and hopefully this is a model for other people to stand up to that.”

Whatever the outcome Tuesday night, the victor will face a slew of economic and social challenges as California tries to regain the promise of its golden age of success in education and innovation.

 

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About the author

Alan Schooling grew up in Southern California before fleeing north to escape the heat. He has been obsessed with music for the last 24 years and had seen more concerts than he can remember. He is currently a communications major at Dominican University of California who is pursuing a career in journalism.
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