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California Political Reform Put to Test in the 10th Assembly District

by Cadee Condit Gray, published

Assembly Member Marc Levine, of the North Bay’s 10th Assembly District, may be in for quite a fight to keep his seat this year.

Levine squeaked out a win in 2012, defeating incumbent Assembly Member Michael Allen of Santa Rosa by the thinnest of margins, a 163-vote difference that amounted to just 2.4 percent of the votes cast.

This year, Levine faces challenges from three Democrats -- Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom, College of Marin Trustee Diana Conti, and former Santa Rosa Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi. Gregory Allen, a Novato corporate recruiter, is the lone Republican in the race.

Typically, state legislators have the toughest time retaining their seats on their first re-election bid. This year, that history will be exacerbated for Levine who faces a tough intra-party election showdown. Levine was the only Democratic incumbent who did not receive the endorsement of the California Democratic Party at its annual convention this year. Since no candidate received more than 50 percent support, no candidate was endorsed.

During the 2012 race, Allen was backed by organized labor. Since his election, Levine has continued to rankle the unions and other progressive organizations which traditionally hold sway in coastal counties. Labor has tagged Levine as a “corporate” Democrat, citing contributions and support from the California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests.

The 2012 campaign cycle was a high water-mark year for political reform. Voters saw the reform of the primary system in California, as well as term limit reform boosting the number of years a candidate could serve from 6 to 12 years. These reforms were sold as an attempt to moderate the political extremes and create more stability in California politics.

Only time will tell whether these reforms will deliver on their promise. The 2014 race for the 10th Assembly District will provide a palpable test of these reforms.

Editor's Note: Levine was not available for comment.

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