Allen, Levine Cap Wild State Assembly Race

Complete with last-minute contributions and lively campaign mailers, the battle for the 10th District seat in the California Assembly comes to an end Tuesday.

As election day arrives, so ends a wild fight for the 10th District seat in the California State Assembly.

Contenders Michael Allen, current state assemblyman who moved to San Rafael after his district was split, and San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine will be holding election night parties Tuesday evening as the votes come in.

Allen has focused on his experience with solving problems in the legislature during his campaign, while Levine zeroed in on the changes the he could bring to state government.

Recent months have included vitriolic attacks with campaign mailers, finger-pointed over paperwork mistakes and last-minute contributions that ring in at almost half a million dollars.

Paperwork Errors

The battle began in the the early months of the campaign when both candidates were reprimanded for paperwork errors.

In July, Levine was slapped on the wrist by the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to accurately report his sources of income. After the June 5 primary, when Levine came in second to Allen, the San Rafael City Council member failed to disclose that his wife, who works as the director of development at Saint Mark’s School in San Rafael, earns between $10,000 and $100,000.

Candidates are required to report earnings from businesses that are located in their jurisdiction, and Levine said he thought school districts were not included. He made the same mistake while running for City Council in 2009.

Allen came under scrutiny after a complaint claiming that he was no longer eligible to collect funds from a homeowner’s tax exemption was filed by Levine's campaign treasurer. Allen moved from Oakmont in Sonoma County to downtown San Rafael in October 2011 following state redistricting that split his 7th Assembly District. Until late September 2012 when he visited the Sonoma County Assessor to update to his files, he received a tax exemption on his Oakmont subdivision. After he corrected the paperwork, the adjustment came out to $70.

Battle of the Mailers

As election day drew near, potential voters' mailboxes were stuffed with campaign mailers funded by independent expenditure committees hoping to tear down their opponents.

Allen's homeowner's tax exemption was the subject of one mailer funded by political action committees known as Family Farmers Working for a Better California and the Western Growers Association. The mailer shows Allen's shoes with a shiny reflection of the Sacramento capital, and the words "He's for Sacramento, not us." The committees spent over $275,000 in negative campaign mailers attacking Allen.

After Allen got the California Democratic Party's endorsement, the organization shot back with mailers portraying Levine as a closeted Republican with backing from agri-businesses that pollute. On the cover of one mailer, the Democrat's donkey hides Levine's face with the phrase "Someone's masking who he really is." In another, Levine stands in front of a race car with patches from sponsors that say Western Growers, polluters and developers.

The Western Growers Association have spent $537,000 in elections from 2004 to 2012, with 54 percent supporting Republican candidates and 30 percent supporting ballot measures. The committee opposed several bills Allen supported, including AB 685, which declares that every human being has the right to clean, affordable and accessible water for consumption.

Contributors to the committee include Kern Ridge Growers and Mann Packing Co. In 2008, Mann Packing Co. was cited for runoff water carrying broccoli, bar-code labels and chlorine-sanitized rinse-water found in Salinas storm drains. Kern Ridge Growers was fined by the California Environmental Protection Agency's pesticides department in 2010, according to the Santa Barbara Independent.

Leo Wallach, a campaign spokesman for Levine, called the attacks "shameless" and added that Allen has more corporate contributions than the San Rafael councilman. "Ninety percent of Allen’s funding, now more than $1 million, comes from Sacramento interests, including corporate donors," Wallach said in an email. "These are the same interests that are trying to move Allen into this district to escape serious ethics problems back home. Marin and Sonoma voters will see past this negative smear campaign."

Councilmembers from Petaluma and Larkspur also supported Levine against the attack.

"This shameless negative campaign against our local candidate is just another example of Sacramento riding roughshod over local concerns," Larkspur Councilman Larry Chu said.

Petaluma Councilman Mike Healy said the negative campaign insulted the intelligence of local voters. "Like many Petaluma citizens, I’m offended by the false, negative and incredibly simple-minded attacks against Marc Levine," he said. "It’s beyond any negative campaign we’ve seen."

Last-minute Contributions

In the last week of his campaign, Allen received around $490,000 from
police officers, attorneys, an environmental organization and teachers and nurses unions, ringing in his total contributions from independent expenditure committees at $700,000.

Levine received $250,000 in support. Western Growers contributed $3,900 on Oct. 30 and California Citrus Mutual, another political action committee that opposed several of Allen's bills, contributed $1,500 on Oct. 26.

Election Day

Allen plans to spend election day going door-to-door in the community to encourage people to vote. "[He] is working hard to urge every local resident to come out and vote for the president all the way through the ballot," said Jill Nelson Golub, a spokeswoman for the Allen campaign. "We are confident that if people come out to vote their values, Michael Allen will be re-elected to the state assembly."

For Wallach, voters have a clear choice: "They can elect Marc Levine, a local leader and problem solver, with a history of getting results at the local level. Or, they can elect Sacramento’s chosen candidate, Michael Allen, who has a big campaign war chest, but little to show after two years in the legislature.”

Who do you think will win? Tell us in the comments.

janna nikkola November 06, 2012 at 04:30 AM
I'm not comfortable about Michael Allen moving into San Rafael in order to run for this district. I don't think he will represent us. I think he's supported by public employee unions and one of the biggest budget issues in CA is about "unfunded pension obligations" when CALPERS lost $67 billion of the pension fund on stock market investmens in the 2-year period 2008-2009 alone, and those losses were simply passed on to the taxpayers. CALPERS spends big money on political campaigns and also spends a lot on negative campaigns on politicians who go up against them. I'm all for our fire fighters, police officers and teachers receiving fair wages and fair pensions -- but I'm opposed to how CALPERS operates. It's a corrupt pension plan and at some point it may take a taxpayer revolt to correct the injustice of having BILLIONS of dollars of bad investment losses by CALPERS simply passed on to the taxpayers. It's completely unsustainable and has already led to three CA cities filing for bankruptcy. The taxpayers already pay generous salaries to public employees and make generous contributions to their retirement plans, but the taxpayers should not have to sustain their pension fund losses. I think Michael Allen will not fight for the taxpayers in correcting this corrupt system. I would not be surprised is he's received generous campaign contributions from CALPERS, but I have no proof. But overall I'm not comfortable he will represent Marin County taxpayers so I can't vote for him.
Dotty LeMieux November 06, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Ohm yeah, let's pick the "local" guy the polluters want. Just because he's lived here longer doesn't mean he has our best interests at heart. In fact, Allen in his term as an Assembly member has passed legislation for environmental protection, consumer protection, homeowner protection against foresclosures and much more. It's his environmental measures, and measures to provide clean drinking water and decent working conditions for farmworkers that has Western Growers and their band of merry polluters and labor law violators spending gazillions to oust him. Don't be fooled.
Mark Schoenbaum November 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
how about protection from public employee unions. Allen = epic fail
Kevin Moore November 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I won't be fooled. Allen moved here to be elected. I'm voting for Levine.


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