WatchSonoma Watch

Allen loses bid for second term


Despite having a massive financial advantage and the backing of powerful Democratic Party and union allies, Santa Rosa Assemblyman Michael Allen lost his bid for another term to a relative political unknown.

That shocking reality was confirmed Friday after Sonoma County officials finished counting outstanding votes from the Nov. 6 election.

The results showed San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine edged Allen 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent, a difference of 4,448 votes. In another surprise, Levine won both Sonoma and Marin counties.

Allen, Levine.

Allen’s losing bid for the 10th Assembly District seat is a blow for the interests that backed him, notably for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, whose main priority this year was getting members of his caucus re-elected, his spokesman said.

It’s also a personal and professional setback for Allen, who was elected to the Assembly in 2010 and was quickly elevated, courtesy of Perez, to a position of leadership in the Legislature. Instead, Levine will be sworn into office Monday.

“As with anything, when you work very hard and you don’t accomplish what you wanted, it’s disappointing,” Allen said Friday.

Allen had appeared to be primed for a long career in the Legislature and for a prominent role in local Democratic Party politics. As an attorney, former nurse and labor leader, he has strong connections with important constituencies in the North Bay.

Allen also was a district director for former state Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, who built a political machine on the North Coast around an agenda that favors unions, social and environmental advocacy and limited growth.

Allen mustered those resources in 2010 when he eked out a victory over Vallejo City Councilman Michael Wilson for the 7th District Assembly seat. He relied on that help again after he chose to run in the newly drawn 10th District, which spans Marin County, part of Santa Rosa and portions of western and southern Sonoma County.

“We walked. We phoned. You name it, we did it,” said Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council.

She estimated as many as 400 volunteers were working on the race, which she called a “priority” for the organization.

Allen had an almost 6-to-1 financial advantage over Levine. He raised nearly $1.4 million and spent $1.38 million, leaving him with an ending cash balance of about $150,000 on Oct. 25, state campaign finance records show.

Levine, by comparison, raised about $253,000 and spent all but about $51,000, records show.

But nothing, not even Perez personally campaigning for Allen, was enough for the Santa Rosa Democrat to earn another term in office.

The explanations for Allen’s loss vary but chief among them may be that he had to introduce himself to voters in a new district and square off against another Democrat. The race was a closely watched test of a new system that sends the top two vote-winners in the primary to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

“This race is a real poster child for what can go wrong within the party on the top-two system,” said David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University. “Republicans knew that was going to happen when they put it on the ballot.”

Allen, who has a home in Oakmont, fended off criticism that he was a carpetbagger for renting an apartment in San Rafael in order to run in the new district.

Allen, and the independent expenditure committees that supported him, bombarded the district with mailers, radio and TV spots and other forms of advertising. But the campaign strategy “clearly didn’t work,” McCuan said.

Levine was able to exploit the public’s dim view of the Legislature and Allen’s ties to labor, as well as his involvement in a conflict of interest case. In 2011, the state’s political watchdog agency fined Allen $3,000 for voting on matters in which he had a financial interest while he was a Santa Rosa planning commissioner.

Former Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, who endorsed Allen, said one elected official told him Allen’s “aggressive” involvement in the Petaluma City Council race might have turned some voters off in southern Sonoma County. After Allen intervened, the Sonoma County Democratic Party in September endorsed the three most liberal of six Democrats in the Petaluma race.

“I know there’s a tendency to play power broker, and that creates suspicion among voters,” Nation said.

McCuan predicted an analysis will show Allen under-performed in absentee ballots submitted by voters in southern Sonoma County. The fact Levine overtook Allen in Sonoma County after all the votes were counted lends credence to that theory.

Other observers viewed as a mistake Allen’s decision to not accept the voluntary campaign spending limit for Assembly candidates under Proposition 34. The decision meant he could not include a candidate’s statement in the voter pamphlet guide, lending the appearance that only Levine was entered in the race.

Levine will head to Sacramento as a self-styled political outsider and reformer who was backed by business and agricultural interests.

But Stephen Gale, head of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, said it would be an “overstatement” to suggest Levine’s victory signals an ideological shift away from the party’s more liberal wing.

“I think it’s about redistricting. It’s essentially a story that’s written every 10 years,” Gale said.

As Levine prepares to take office, Allen is left to wonder what might have been. It’s no stretch to think he would have played a key role in the Legislature because in many ways he already was.

Perez selected him as assistant majority floor leader and also appointed him to a joint legislative committee tasked with addressing the high-profile issue of public employee pensions.

Allen’s legacy as a lawmaker will likely be remembered for his efforts to improve patient and worker safety at the state’s mental health facilities, an effort spurred by the killing of a psychiatric technician at Napa State Hospital.

Allen spearheaded new laws that loosen restrictions on forcibly medicating patients and that require state hospitals to update injury and illness prevention plans annually. Perez also had appointed him as chairman of a new Select Committee on State Hospital Safety.

“The problems in the state mental health system still exist. What we’re concerned with is who’s going to step up and be the champion Allen was,” said Coby Pizzotti, a lobbyist for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians.

Agricultural groups, however, aren’t likely to miss Allen, who fought to give farmworkers overtime pay after they work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours a week. The bill was rejected by the Assembly.

The trade organizations Western Growers and California Citrus Mutual spent about $228,000 on mailers to oppose Allen in the Assembly race. One of the mailers depicted a photo of Allen with a big grin on his face and called him “The Sacramento Guy.”

That moniker no longer fits, but many predict Allen will continue to play a prominent role in politics both at the local level and at the Capitol. On Friday, though, he said he has no specific job offers or appointments on the horizon, only a plan to enjoy the holidays with his friends and family.

“Michael has a record to be proud of,” said Maldonado with the labor council. “I’m not concerned at all that he won’t find a way to still make a contribution.”

15 Responses to “Allen loses bid for second term”

  1. Sour Grapes and Gripes says:

    The LA Times reported:

    “The freshmen who joined Pérez didn’t have to report the value of their tickets because the gathering was hosted by the state Democratic Party.”

    So “Bob Whittaker” is there something wrong with a democratic legislator going to a basketball game hosted by the Democratic Party? And in Levine’s case, uh, that same party spent a million bucks to defeat him and lost. The party, I’d say, has a hell of a lot of making up to do.

    This is the kind of situational complaints we usually hear from Lisa Maldonado and Laura Gonzales. I guess they’ve gone underground for a while. If they are just adopting new fake names, look out everybody because the sour grapes losers over at the North Bay Labor Council are scheming to launch another campaign with their favorite hack…Michael Allen.

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  2. Kay Tokerud says:

    Thanks to Rosa Koire for having the guts to report Michael Allen to the FPPC for serious conflicts of interest for which he was found guilty and fined. The Press Democrat ran a hit piece on her the same day they finally relented and put a story about Michael Allen’s wrongdoing in their newspaper. That sort of whistleblower retribution is unfortunately common these days as the press has become a political operative and propaganda machine. Fortunately, Rosa has a type of courage that is rare these days and was undaunted by that smear piece.

    Michael Allen lost by less than 2 percent. Do you think having a bad record with the FPPC caused him to lose? I do. So, which crooked politician wants to be next? While the press may write hit pieces on good people who tell the truth and turn in corrupt politicians, it is the criminals who have the most to fear in the end. So let this be a wake up call to any politician who thinks they are above the law and illegally feeds at the public trough.

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  3. Bob Whittaker says:

    Marc Levine wasted no time in sucking up to those Sacramento lobbyists he used to hate so much. He accepted lobby gifts to a Kings game (see story below) and has already hired Sacramento insiders to work for him too (long time staffers for Sacramento Insiders Carol Migden and Don Perata) It’s no surprise that Marc Levine didn’t even wait until he was sworn in to break his own promises. But the rapidity and disrespect to those who voted for him is breathtaking. If this is how he thinks he is going to “reform” Sacramento, it’s going to be a short two years.
    I heard he has already set up his 2014 Campaign account so he can start depositing the big lobbyists checks. I look forward to Derek Moore and the PD investigating Levine with the same deal they had for Allen


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  4. Juvenal says:

    The two ag lobbying organizations that brought Michael Allen down with specious negative mailers are staffed completely by “Sacramento guys…” Look ‘em up in the phone book.

    What does Michael expect, trying to make working conditions better for farm workers?

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  5. James Bennett says:

    What is that?

    Why, yes, it looks like a glimmer of organic real democracy.

    Public discernment.

    Surviving special interest money and propaganda.

    Haven’t seen you in a while.

    Welcome home.

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  6. Maldoado: "You Name It, We Did It" says:

    THE PD SAYS: “Allen mustered those resources in 2010 when he eked out a victory over Vallejo City Councilman Michael Wilson for the 7th District Assembly seat. He relied on that help again after he chose to run in the newly drawn 10th District, which spans Marin County, part of Santa Rosa and portions of western and southern Sonoma County.

    “We walked. We phoned. You name it, we did it,” said Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council.

    She estimated as many as 400 volunteers were working on the race, which she called a “priority” for the organization.”

    The North Bay Labor Council headed by Lisa Maldonado recruited 400 “volunteers” to walk precincts and make phone calls in addition all the money they gave Allen because it was a “priority” for them. So all those comments left here on Watch Sonoma County, tweets,letters to the editor and other efforts must have been coordinated by someone and the time they spent managing and participating in that campaign would have to be reported as an in kind contribution to the Allen campaign in order to be legal. Has anyone checked the financial reports to see if Allen reported the “gift” of inkind staff support, i.e., the value of Lisa Maldonado’s time to the state?

    If Allen “mustered” resources under the table then that would be consistent with the way he “won” in 2010 and the way he ran his losing campaign for City Council in 2007.

    But think about it. Is Michael Allen the biggest loser in California? It has been reported elsewhere that when the Independant Expenditure money is added onto what the Allen campaign spent, more than $2.1 million was spent to attempt to re-elect him. He had an enormous list elected officials endorsing him. Now we learn that Allen also had 400 “volunteers” helping him. And yet,with all this help and all these resources, he lost. It would have been a landslide for Levine absent all the artificial “support” for Sacramento.

    This election could not be bought. Voters rejected the guy with a reputation for corruption in favor of a fresh face. Rejecting corruption is bipartisan.

    The PD in the story above also says the 2010 race with Allen was eked out with the same resources. Right. With a huge amount of support from the North Bay Labor Council that went unreported as in kind donation. But there was a second issue in 2010. Prior to the election, Allen denied and blew off the accusations against him related to his influence peddling with the Water Agency and his appointment to the Planning Commission. The accusations of a quid pro quo were not made last minute nor in the form of a “hit piece” from either of the two candidates opposing Allen. In fact the only hit pieces and negative campaigning via push polling in that 2010 race came from labor “resources” supporting Allen. The checks for the 2010 push polling were signed by Lisa Maldonado (copies are on file in the Sonoma County Registrar’s office)even though she was falsely blaming other candidates here on Watch Sonoma County for weeks prior to the 2010 election. And, as a result of the denials from Allen, some voters gave Allen the benefit of the doubt. Only after the election did Allen “cooperate” with the Fair Political Practices Commission and sign a stipulation to the accusation that he had a serious conflict of interest during his appointment to the Santa Rosa Planning Commission. If voters had known the influence peddling was a fact prior to the 2010 primary and knew Allen and his “resources” were the source of the negative campaigning while blaming others, we would have had Assemblyman Michael Wilson for the past two years. So in a way the voters in 2012 were correcting a mistake made in 2010 and denying reelection to the guy who lied to them directly and through his “resources” at the North Bay Labor Council.

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  7. Reality Check says:

    The fascinating thing here is that Allen spent $1.38 million dollars to Levine’s measly $200k. And I thought most Allen supporters opposed Big Money in politics. Well, it looks like Big Money lost.

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  8. Bonnie S. Arthur says:

    Thanks, Yannick,
    I’m happy to second all that you say above. Michael is intelligent, creative and a brilliant leader. He was undone by redistricting, but the time will come when he can take a new path to Sacramento.

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  9. Sue St. Claire says:

    There was a glimmer of hope in the last election. At least one public union hack was dispensed with.

    This guy has been living off the public for far too long. He is from another era in politics.

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  10. Mary Robt says:

    Don’t give up Michael.

    Run for 2nd District Assembly, Wes Chesbro is termed out in 2014. Run Michael Run!!!

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  11. Doodles says:

    Maybe the voters moved to “the middle” as a signal of their desire for politicians who will make decisions after carefully weighing all input, entertain compromise, and make balanced decisions, not just those that benefit their “base.” Everyone says they are tired of gridlock and want compromise, but voters must elect politicians who do not have a reputation as being strictly in one camp or the other if they want to encourage politicians to operate from the middle.

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  12. Rosa Koire says:

    Michael Allen has paid the piper. We can hope that California has seen the end of him. Reporting him to the FPPC and watching him be found guilty was a bright spot for me in the otherwise dismal political morass of the North Bay.

    While we can regret that he was ever elected to the State Assembly in the first place, we can rejoice that voters recognized his sleazy behavior and rewarded him by giving him the boot. Perhaps it took Marin County voters to recognize that a man who threatens his opponent and takes money to vote shouldn’t be (re) elected.

    Michael Allen and Lisa Maldonado are disgraced, and they should be. The only disappointment is that it took so long.

    Rosa Koire
    Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition

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  13. homegirl says:

    Yannick Phillips does her best to make Allen seem to be a true environmentalist. I wonder how many trees were sacrificed to the flood of 4 color, glossy paper mailings his campaign sent out.

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  14. Snarky says:

    Guess that used car salesman smile didn’t help, eh?

    Whats a low life politician to do ?

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  15. Yannick Phillips says:

    Michael will surely be missed by so many. Michael’s great humor, constituency connection and the way he carried himself as a “Regular Guy”, definitely not a “Sacramento Guy” was for me personally his greatest attribute.

    Our 12 yr.old daughter Gwen met Michael in Sacramento one day. He was so sincere and friendly, gave her his card…I think she’ll always remember that day.

    Michael was never afraid to go beyond the ‘comfort level’ of Sacramento to advocate for his constituency. He carried a bill for Ca. conventional farmers to transition to organic agriculture as well as a bee-protecting resolution and much more. Michael was our great champion of sustainable agriculture. Sonoma and Marin were lucky to have him as they prepared to transition from one superbe sustainable food/ag champion, Jared Huffman, to Michael.

    Will Marc continue in these 2 men’s footsteps, who were in tune with their constituency?

    As Marc Levine becomes my official Assemblymember shortly, I hope he can prove that he also is a “Regular Guy” and doesn’t turn into a “Sacramento Guy”…the exact think he personally campaigned viciously against with the help of the most powerful Big Ag lobbying group in Sac.-Western Growers.

    We’ll see. We’ll be watching.


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