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.
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."
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.
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.