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Endorsements: The race for 10th District Assembly

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Marc Levine is almost certain to earn a third term as the 10th District’s Assembly representative, an area which includes all of Marin and parts of Sonoma County, including the City of Sonoma. The San Rafael Democrat is the entrenched incumbent, and neither of his opponents in the June 7 primary appear to have the name recognition or financial means to mount a serious challenge.

Of the two challengers to his seat, the rival Democrat, Veronica Jacobi, only received 5 percent of the vote when she ran for Assembly in 2014 – quietly bowing out before the election, while endorsing one of the other progressive candidates in the race. At the time she was two years past serving on the Santa Rosa City Council; now she’s two years even further away from having directly crafted public policy. Unless something extremely unexpected happens in the month ahead, Jacobi is unlikely to carry on in the “top two” runoff toward the November election.

Meanwhile, Republican Gregory Allen, of Novato, will probably soak up enough conservative support to face Levine in the general election but, like in 2014, it will be a daunting challenge for him to unseat an incumbent in a district where a mere 18 percent align with the GOP.

If you believe what Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan told the Petaluma Argus-Courier last week, Levine’s campaign is so well funded, no serious challengers bothered to step into the ring this year.

But if they did, someone with a combination of Jacobi and Allen’s more admirable policy positions might make a decent challenger. Jacobi, an energy management consultant, should be lauded for recognizing that curbing climate change is arguably the most crucial issue of our time – she was a leader in the City of Santa Rosa adopting a climate action plan, and advocated for PG&E’s paper recycling policy.

Allen, meanwhile, calls for better education funding, and higher wages for best-qualified teachers. On a similar note, he also advocates for increased wages for skilled union employees. Perhaps his career as an employment recruiter has given him some insight into the idea that the only way to recruit and retain the best workers is to pay them at an equal level to the value of their contributions.

Oddly, Allen’s primary issue seems to be the defense of Proposition 13 tax law – a priority that even Howard Jarvis, if he were alive today, would probably concede is a bit off the radar of the typical 2016 10th District voter.

Nonetheless, the 10th District should prepare for another two years of Assemblymember Marc Levine.

Levine heads into his third 10th District Assembly campaign having authored a multitude of bills signed into law. And, like most of his colleagues in the state legislature, many of his bills are narrowly focused laws, which are easier to pass, but don’t affect a wide variety of constituents. Examples include: AB 1810, which allows the free exchange of goods between seed libraries (sort of a NAFTA for gardeners); AB 2827, which limits litigation against businesses that incorrectly brandish “Made in the USA” labels; and such feel-good resolutions as naming the Waldo Grade tunnel after the late Robin Williams and declaring a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (it was March of 2014).

He’s taken heat in this paper recently for his time spent trying to legalize “ballot-box selfies” and establish weight standards for people in the modeling industry – which, quite frankly, still wouldn’t be a legitimate 10th District concern even if Kate Moss, Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio all decided to get a place together on the Sonoma east side.

Levine’s recent battle with New York-based daily fantasy football websites over the definition of gambling was perhaps his most surreal moment in the legislature to date.

Ultimately, Levine is a moderate Democrat who rarely swings for the fences in the way many of his more progressive constituents would like their Assembly representative to do.

Levine has his detractors, but he also has his moments.

We think he particularly deserves credit for AB 1664, legislation to close the “bullet-button loophole” making it tougher to sell assault weapons in the state; AB 2262, a bill to give more weight to mental illness in criminal sentencing; and AB 1530, which removes the unnecessary charge energy consumers get when they switch from a utility to a green-energy provider.

The intriguing AB 157, meanwhile, calls for opening up a third lane on the San Rafael/Richmond Bridge by repainting the stripes – which would be about as simple a fix to a small amount of gridlock as the district is ever going to get. (He’s less keen on the percolating proposal to turn Highway 37 into a privatized toll causeway.)

He’s also passed legislation of particular interest to Sonomans – such as AB 2488 and AB 774, which, respectively, permit wine and beer tastings at farmers markets; AB 1295, which eases distribution barriers for craft distillers; and the upcoming AB 2511, which would create standards for biochar, a naturally processed soil that local water conservationists are championing.

As Levine goes into his final term in the Assembly, he may still deliver a few head-scratching moments – but we’re encouraged by the fact that some of his more ambitious pieces of legislation were introduced in 2016.

Going forward, we’d like to see him let the super models fend for themselves and delve deeper into the concerns – water use, ag protection and transportation for starters – that truly affect the 10th District.

Who knows? Levine may start swinging for the fences yet.

We recommend Marc Levine for 10th District Assembly.

– Jason Walsh, editor

– John Burns, publisher