ARGUS-COURIER STAFF | May 7, 2018, 9:19AM
The primary race for the right to represent Petaluma in the State Assembly features just two candidates — both Democrats — guaranteeing the contest will be repeated in November. Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Huffman faces a challenge for his congressional seat from two very different Humboldt County candidates.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, a San Rafael Democrat, is running for his fourth term in Sacramento. He faces progressive challenger Dan Monte, a retired contractor from San Rafael, in the June 5 election. In California primaries, the top two vote getters move on to the general election regardless of party affiliation.
Assembly District 10, which includes Marin County and southern Sonoma County, is one of the most liberal districts in the state. Monte said he was positioned to the left of Levine on issues such as environmental protection and universal health care.
“Marc is a pretty centrist sort of guy,” said Monte, 69, a father of two. “His district is a lot more liberal than he is.”
According to Levine, his Sacramento colleagues say he is one of the more progressive Democrats in the Capitol. He said he has championed environmental legislation, including on the state’s cap-and-trade carbon emissions program, and he has taken on the National Rifle Association by closing loopholes on assault weapons purchases.
“I’m an independent minded Democrat,” said Levine, 44, who has two kids and previously served on the San Rafael City Council. “I am a strong believer in universal health care. But I also believe you can’t make big promises with no results to back them up.”
Levine touted his record working on bills to bolster mental health services and prevent suicides. He also organized an Assembly committee on natural disaster response after the October North Bay wildfires.
He has recently been working on data protection legislation to protect consumer privacy from technology companies.
“We have a lot on our plate to do for our community,” he said.
For the first time since the state adopted the top-two primary system in 2010, the Assembly district that includes Petaluma will not have a Republican in the race. Monte said the district is ready for a change to an even more liberal candidate.
“I’m going to go to Sacramento to represent all voters,” he said. “We need to have single payer health care to fix a lot of ills. We need a fully-funded public school system. Social justice issues need to be addressed. We need to strengthen the Coastal Commission.”
In Petaluma’s congressional district, which spans from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border, Huffman is seeking his fourth term in Washington. He faces Democrat Andy Caffrey, of Garberville and Dale Mensing, a Republican from Redway.
Since 2016, Huffman has staked his position in opposition to President Trump and as a leader in the movement to resist administration policies. He signed on to a democratic effort to impeach Trump.
“I am 100 percent certain this president won’t finish his term,” said Huffman, 54, a father of two. “We’ve seen so much evidence of misconduct and misuse of power. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. ... It makes Watergate look downright innocent.”
An environmental lawyer from San Rafael, Huffman has championed environmental causes in Congress as the vice-ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee. He said, despite the toxic atmosphere in Washington, he has been able to make progress on local issues including funding for SMART rail, fire relief and dredging of the Petaluma River.
Caffrey, 60, who lives on disability, said he considers himself a Bernie Sanders Democrat. His platform includes action on climate change, universal health care and raising the minimum wage. He hopes to edge out Mensing and face Huffman in the fall election.
“I’m simply an organizer who looks at situations we face and how to deal with them,” he said. “I always respond to the urgency of situations.”
Mensing, 59, a grocery store clerk and the lone Republican in the race, ran against Huffman in the past two elections, garnering around 25 percent each time. One of his main issues is limited government.
“I’m running for Congress to defend the integrity of the Bill of Rights, and I’m going to put a lot of emphasis on the need to get the federal government out of education,” he said.