As Marc Levine was considering a run for the newly created 10th Assembly District seat, he said he received a call from Assembly Speaker John Perez, one of the state's most powerful Democrats.
"You deserve to be in the Legislature," Levine said he was told. "But it's not your time."
Perez, D-Los Angeles, told Levine the Democratic leadership in Sacramento and the North Bay would support Levine's opponent, Michael Allen, in the new district.
Allen currently represents the 7th Assembly District, which was redrawn during redistricting. He has rented an apartment in San Rafael to establish residency within the new 10th District, which encompasses all of Marin County and parts of southern and western Sonoma County, including a portion of Santa Rosa. Levine is a first-term San Rafael city councilman.
As the June 5 primary campaign draws to a close, Allen and Levine appear to be the front-runners, setting up a potential battle of two Democrats in the November general election. This year will be the first statewide election where the top two candidates, regardless of political party, advance to face off in November.
Political analyst David McCuan, a Sonoma State University politics professor, called the new district "hyperactive" or "hyperaware" because its residents are so politically involved.
"They are well educated and well informed, so they'll have a lot of cues on which to draw," he said.
Five other candidates are seeking the seat: Joe Boswell of San Rafael, an independent who worked on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign; Alex Easton-Brown, a Democrat and president of the Marin United Taxpayers Association; Democrat H. Christian Gunderson, a Petaluma mental health counselor; Peter Mancus, a Republican small-business owner from Sebastopol; and Democrat Connie Wong, a Corte Madera real estate agent.
Levine, 38, a San Rafael city councilman since 2009, said Perez's admonition bolstered his resolve.
"The local voters should have a choice," he said. "Sacramento was trying to muscle in their candidate."