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Gullixson: Top-two primary forced changes, even for us

  • Paul Gullixson.

Regardless of whether you’re a supporter of the top-two primary system, you have to admit one thing: It’s made primary elections more of a spectator sport. Case in point: The race for the 10th Assembly District, which includes all of Marin County and 44 percent of Sonoma County.

As you recall, San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine, a moderate Democrat, rattled his party’s political establishment two years ago when he knocked off Assemblyman Michael Allen despite being outspent nearly 6-1. Such a thing would never have happened in pre-top-two days.

Well, now it’s payback time. If Levine hopes to win re-election, he will have to withstand a withering attack from within his own party. Levine should be the top vote-getter 16 days from now. But he is the only incumbent in state office who did not receive the endorsement of his own party.

Fortunately for him, his detractors within Marin and Sonoma County Democratic circles couldn’t galvanize around a single candidate to oppose him. And now concern is high that the vote will be so divided among the four strong party candidates — including Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom, College of Marin Trustee Diana Conti and former Santa Rosa Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi — that Republican Greg Allen of Novato will slip in and finish in the coveted second-place spot.

As a result, the party has so tied itself in knots that Jacobi is now encouraging supporters to vote for Conti — although Jacobi says she is still running and wouldn’t mind winning if she is elected.

There it is. Clear as mud.

But this is not an isolated story. A similar situation is brewing in the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Napa County and part of Sonoma Valley and Rohnert Park. That race features three strong Democrats including Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, and Davis Councilman Dan Wolk — son of state Sen. Lois Wolk — and Charlie Schaupp, a Republican farmer and former school board member who is likely to lock up much of the conservative vote. Who will emerge in the top two is anybody’s guess.

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