WatchSonoma Watch

Lopsided race for Assembly seat



As Marc Levine was considering a run for the newly created 10th Assembly District seat, he said he received a call from Assembly Speaker John Perez,

Michael Allen, Marc Levine (COURTESY PHOTOS)

one of the state’s most powerful Democrats.

“You deserve to be in the Legislature,” Levine said he was told. “But it’s not your time.”

Perez, D-Los Angeles, told Levine the Democratic leadership in Sacramento and the North Bay would support Levine’s opponent, Michael Allen, in the new district.

Allen currently represents the 7th Assembly District, which was redrawn during redistricting. He has rented an apartment in San Rafael to establish residency within the new 10th District, which encompasses all of Marin County and parts of southern and western Sonoma County, including a portion of Santa Rosa. Levine is a first-term San Rafael city councilman.

As the June 5 primary campaign draws to a close, Allen and Levine appear to be the front-runners, setting up a potential battle of two Democrats in the November general election. This year will be the first statewide election where the top two candidates, regardless of political party, advance to face off in November.

Political analyst David McCuan, a Sonoma State University politics professor, called the new district “hyperactive” or “hyperaware” because its residents are so politically involved.

“They are well educated and well informed, so they’ll have a lot of cues on which to draw,” he said.

Five other candidates are seeking the seat: Joe Boswell of San Rafael, an independent who worked on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign; Alex Easton-Brown, a Democrat and president of the Marin United Taxpayers Association; Democrat H. Christian Gunderson, a Petaluma mental health counselor; Peter Mancus, a Republican small-business owner from Sebastopol; and Democrat Connie Wong, a Corte Madera real estate agent.

Levine, 38, a San Rafael city councilman since 2009, said Perez’s admonition bolstered his resolve.

“The local voters should have a choice,” he said. “Sacramento was trying to muscle in their candidate.”

Allen, 64, is the former general manager of the Service Employees International Union Local 707 and director of the North Bay Labor Council. He was elected in 2010 to represent the 7th District after serving on the Santa Rosa Planning Commission and working as a district director for former state Sen. Pat Wiggins. He is a registered nurse and an attorney.

Levine’s assertion about the Perez call is misleading, Allen said.

“You’re not anointed by holy oil to elected office,” he said. “You have to earn it, and I did with local people’s support.”

Levine is a software creator who has his master’s degree in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. He has positioned himself as an alternative to the traditional political machinery that he said is often blind to local concerns.

He said Allen has been dishonest and disingenuous — from his move into the district, to ethics violations, to his recent vote against the Rohnert Park casino compact after eight years of supporting it.

“How can you look someone in the eye after that?” Levine said. “We have concerns about who represents us. We need to start thinking differently.”

Allen has deep support among the state’s largest labor unions — which can be a political strength or a hindrance in an era when public-sector benefits and pensions are a divisive issue, McCuan said.

Allen sits on a state committee that is tasked with addressing the state financial crisis caused in part by hefty pensions of public employees, many of whom are union members Allen previously represented.

He said he is the perfect person to work on pension changes.

“When you are a true friend to a particular constituency, like I have been to labor over the years, part of it is being honest with them,” Allen said. “I told them, we need to work on reform so it’s sustainable.”

Levine is a member of an ad-hoc Marin County committee that has reached pension agreements with county labor unions, including reduced benefits, higher retirement ages and increased employee contributions.

McCuan said the big money Sacramento and large labor unions have poured into Allen’s campaign are a recognition that Allen needed to introduce himself to a new constituency in Marin.

Allen has raised almost seven times more money than Levine in the past five months, $368,000 compared to Levine’s $63,400, as of May 18. Most of Allen’s contributions have come from outside the district, from labor unions and in non-monetary assistance from the Democratic State Central Committee.

While Levine characterizes that as Sacramento selecting Allen, Allen said he simply appeals to a broader base.

“Michael Allen has pretty good name recognition (in Sonoma County), but some baggage too — as a result, you get the money to limit the negative hit,” McCuan said.

Levine’s camp has highlighted a $3,000 fine levied on Allen by the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2011 for voting on matters in which he had a financial interest while he was a Santa Rosa planning commissioner. Allen has said it was an innocent mistake.

Allen has also taken criticism over continuing to be paid by two North Bay labor unions after he took office last year. Neither of the associations is affiliated with public employee unions.

Allen’s strong financial backing makes it difficult for a challenger, McCuan said.

“Allen is a well-known, well-heeled, well-oiled political machine,” he said, “running against someone like Marc Levine who is trying to break through.”

28 Responses to “Lopsided race for Assembly seat”

  1. Juvenal says:


    Voting for “none of the above” IS not voting.

  2. Grapevines says:

    MOCKINGBIRD suggests that “Those of you who want “none of the above” just don’t vote. I’ll be pleased if you stay home. Beats having you vote for some far rightwing nut.”

    Not voting is not expressing dismay over the choice we are being given. If you don’t vote, then don’t complain about the outcome either.

  3. Richard James Emory says:

    People like the bird and the juvenile don’t get what people are saying. This a lopsided race because there is a loony candidate by the name of Michael Allen running.

    What most people want is a candidate who will actually standup and address the fiscal crisis in Sacramento and do something innovative and constructive in state government, not just another gofer, seat warmer who does what he is told.

    In Allen you have that very type of good old boy candidate. Pro-labor, anti-business and pro-status quo.

    He is just what is not needed in Sacramento. So it is almost anybody but Allen and I think that is what most of the people on this site are saying.

    He is not a creative out of the box thinker. He plods along to get along.

    Time for a new face in this district and in Sacramento. At least someone with something of a different point of view and does not wear the union label on his forehead.

  4. South Park, Season 8, Episode 8 says:


    You said it loud and clear! Allen and Levine ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. One is an experienced political tool and one is a new one. We lose with either one in Sacramento.

  5. Double standards says:

    Michael Allen supporters and his IEC crew that are sending negative attack mailers on Levine are all the same people who whined and complained incessantly about the mailers that came from the IEC’s for Rabbitt. Why the double standards? I received ANOTHER negative mailer today from Allen’s folks against Levine. I received 5 positive mailers from Allen’s campaign in 3 days. Enough is enough of these mailers. The money will sadly pay off.

  6. Grapevines says:

    Juvenal asks

    “If your candidate were to prevail, then what, Professor?”

    Well Juvenal, if your candidate prevails, then they would have gathered more votes than the “NONE OF THE ABOVE” option wouldn’t they?

    But are you not just a little bit disturbed by having to so consistently vote for the weasel that you dislike the less?

  7. John Lennon says:

    Micheal Allen,

    You have spammed my mailbox with 5 huge thick paper and color advertisements each day for the past 3 weeks. Over 100 huge pieces of mail from you and I’m just one voter. let’s times that number by every available household in Sonoma County.

    Can you or the Sierra club explain to me how this is green? How can you be for a plastic bag ban when you have just cut down 1000′s of trees, put 1000′s of tons of greenhouse and chemicals in printing your spam and put tons of chemically tainted paper in our landfill?

    Can we get some real environmentalists running? And shame on you Sierra club for endorsing this guy. Its not about the environment anymore, its about money.

  8. GAJ says:

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    Albert Einstein

  9. Jim says:

    Man, read these posts. Allen is better. No, Levine is better. Allen is in the pocket of the unions. Levine is inexperienced. Levine is from a “rich family”.

    Are these posters for real? Seriously, please point out ONE politician that has been elected in CA that has done anything but raise taxes, cry about “police, firemen and teachers” in defense of not cutting, voted to raise their own salaries and benefits, pander to every union demand, and run a deficit up to $16+ billion.

    These same arguments, this candidate vs that candidate, have been had for decades in CA and NOTHING has changed. Nothing.

    The business climate is the worst in the country. Beloved Silicon Valley companies start here and then expand elsewhere. Unemployment close to the highest in the nation. Taxes ARE the highest in the nation. Deficits, that Brown campaigned he’d CUT, ARE the highest in the nation and growing (as anyone with a brain expected). Hidden pension liability (“unfunded liability”) is the highest in nation (and growing).

    So explain to me what Allen would do that Levine won’t. Or what Levine would do that Allen won’t. You have candidates running for every political position on a platform of ‘I’m better than my opponent’ when in reality THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. It is 3-card Monty, and the people in CA are the marks. And the sad thing is, people take sides for one lying crook against another lying crook.

  10. Not A Chance says:

    Everybody is going on about how terrible Michael Allen is, but while all of you ignoramuses are throwing weak blows at the Assemblyman you’ve completely missed the fact that Levine is a snake of the highest caliber.

    Here we have a guy who was ran as a progressive to be elected to the city council, then he governed as a conservative Democrat, taking cash from Target and voting in their favor. Then he started running for Assembly as, you guessed it, a progressive! That all ended just as soon as Assemblymember Allen made his decision to run in the 10th AD (which he currently represents in the Santa Rosa area) Levine got spooked so he changed course COMPLETELY all of a sudden Levine became about as conservative as Mitt Romney just because he declared it “his time”, face it people he’s a narcissist.

    Levine will do and say anything just to get this job, you may not like Allen, but lets be serious, he’s governed just as he said he would. He’s progressive and you may not like that, but he hasn’t changed his positions all that often, and when he has (casino) its because of constituent pressure which is all part of democracy.

    Don’t be manipulated by Levine, Allen is the stronger candidate who can get more done for us here, Levine is simply running for Assembly because its a cool gig and when you’re living off of your wife’s trust fund at age 38 I guess you can.

  11. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    I find it kind of ironic those supporting Levine against Allen. Allen gets kudos, even from the PD for once, and other organizations in this county for a job well done in Sacramento while Levine isn’t well liked by anyone and catered to the big box stores.

    Levine isn’t an anti-Allen vote people. There are others running.

  12. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Those of you who want “none of the above” just don’t vote. Show us all and make your point. I’ll be pleased if you stay home. Beats having you vote for some far rightwing nut.

  13. Big Jim says:

    Michael Allen is one of the key architects and beneficiaries of the excessive public employee pensions in the North Bay. Just this week “Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, voted in support of AB 1692″ a bill to make it virtually impossible for cities to declare bankruptcy so that public employees would not have to re-negotiate their contracts. A vote for Allen is a vote to perpetuate the thinking that got us into this financial catastrophe. Save our state, send a message that the current system must change – vote Allen out!

  14. Jim says:

    How about a complete moratorium on anyone WITH political experience?

    Lets see, we have a CA legislature full of career politicians. This group of incompetent dopes has an approval rating in the single digits. They pass nothing but business restrictions that led to companies expanding out of state, or moving completely out of state. Their answer to every problem is raise taxes, increase fees and/or add new laws that have fines attached.

    The only thing that gets done in Sacramento is a unanimous vote to pay themselves their absurd $142/day per diem over the Memorial Day weekend. These people steal $30,000+ in perks and benefits (like the per diem) on an annual basis. Yeah, they’re working FOR us…give me a break!

    I bet most of the unemployed in CA could support their family on the TAX FREE $30,000+ the legislators steal from the taxpayer in perks, let alone the excessive $95,000+ salary.

    Why vote for any of them? The politicians in CA just play musical chairs over the decades, constantly moving from one unnecessary political job to the next. The problem is that the number of chairs keeps INCREASING, and more and more unnecessary government jobs bleed the CA taxpayer to death.

    What are we up to now Jerry, $9+ billion? No big deal. Lets wait until it hits $15 billion to pay attention. Oh wait, it is $16 billion, not $9 billion. Oh well, call me when it hits $25 billion then, that’s when the politicians will really get to addressing the problem.

    Now, who’s running for what? Doesn’t freaking matter. And if you think it does, I wish I lived in your fantasy world.

  15. Juvenal says:


    “This serves to justify why there should be a spot on the ballot to mark, “NONE OF THE ABOVE”

    If your candidate were to prevail, then what, Professor?

  16. Juvenal says:

    @Disaffected Voter

    “If this were a real election, Allen wouldn’t stand a chance against a serious candidate not thrown up to make us think this is some kind of horse race.”

    In what way is this not a real election? There was nothing to stop you from throwing your own supremely qualified hat into the race?

  17. Thank you for Voting! The CA State Assembly should be about vision, goals and putting the people of Sonoma County first above parties or groups. If anyone has any questions on the CA State Assembly race contact me at drgunderson@hotmail.com. Thank you

  18. Rome is Burning says:

    If you like the status quo where special interest union bosses run Sacto, then vote Allen. If you want a chance to change things for the better, vote Levine.

  19. John Reed says:

    Michael Allen has made many friends and allies over many years with his thoughtful, caring approach to building alliances and deep political relationships. He is the best example I know of locally of the cream rising to the top. He has done more to build the progressive coalition than anyone in the North Bay. He has risen to power because those who work with him trust him and his judgment, and know that his compass is set to serve the common good.

    It is strange to hear all the wild accusations and unfounded attacks by the right-wing union haters. The people who have actually worked with him in group settings or in coalitions know that he is a conscientious and skilled organizer who earns loyalty and respect. I guess that we’re going to have to endure these underhanded, mean-spirited, attacks every time he runs for office. That comes with being effective on behalf of working peoples interests rather than being a corporate tool. He will prevail.

  20. Vinyl Rules says:

    The choice is between someone who is an expert politician, or a 2-year, otherwise unemployed city councilmember. If you were getting heart surgery, would you choose a kid still in med school, or a surgeon with decades of experience?

  21. Pathetically Money Talks says:

    I received three mailers for Michael Allen yesterday and one more today along with a hit piece on Levine. Unbelievable! Am I to have trust in what money buys — a politician who recently moves into a new district just to get reelected? I can tell you that is what I will get, thanks to corrupt politics and politicians.

  22. South Park, Season 8, Episode 8 says:

    Both Levine and Allen are political tools catering to the 1%. I want to vote “None of the Above” on this more than any other race that I’ve ever seen.

  23. Sandra Hendricks says:

    Michael Allen gets my vote. His bill on incentivizing organic farming and his work on the Middle Class Scholarship act show his heart and head are in the right place to represent this district. I pay no attention to the Right Wing union haters on this board. Allen’s spirited advocacy of the 99% only make him an even better candidate in my book! Occupy the Voting Booth!

  24. bill says:

    Is Allen going to correct the pension mess to make public pensions resemble Social Security like average citizens receive? The payout for retired public servants should be no better than the public they serve.

  25. Paul Otero says:

    I voted for Levine. Allen is a corrupt politician who is constantly being investigated for ethics violations. He’s an EMBARASSMENT to Sonoma County

  26. Grapevines says:

    This serves to justify why there should be a spot on the ballot to mark, “NONE OF THE ABOVE”

    Reject the entire bunch of weasels being offered and stick to it till someone who will serve the public and not themselves and the special interests that put them up and fund their campaign.

    Because as weasels go, these two are perfect examples.

  27. Disaffected Voter says:

    If this were a real election, Allen wouldn’t stand a chance against a serious candidate not thrown up to make us think this is some kind of horse race.

    Allen is a union hack and has nothing to show for his one term in the good old boys demo club in Sacramento.

    Its really to bad the voters don’t have a choice and not just an echo in the district, but that how the democrat thugs run things.

  28. Stuart Mehan says:

    Lopsided in that one Candidate- Michael Allen has all the qualifications and work experience and the other- Marc Levine is a poor little rich boy(that’s right his family is wealthy) who doesn’t work and has done absolutely nothing but serve as a part time city council member for barely two years. Talk about entitled. Levine is the PD favorite though because he’s supported by their business pals like Amy Dutra and Basin Street developers. So expect them to keep pushing him with articles like this. If you love real estate development and big box stores, Levine is your guy!