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Pd Editorial: Levine is top choice in 10th Assembly District

Voters in the 10th Assembly District have a choice among four candidates in the March 3 primary: three Democrats, including four-term incumbent Marc Levine of Greenbrae, and one Republican.

Only two Assembly incumbents have drawn more challengers than Levine.

Competition is a good thing. Voters should have choices, and officeholders shouldn't get too comfortable in their jobs.

An upstart Levine unseated a well-known and heavily funded incumbent in the 2012 election. Over four Assembly terms, he has emphasized his independence while demonstrating a knack for introducing bills that make big headlines but not much impact. The most recent example: legislation requiring registered voters to vote.

In this year's election, Levine is the political heavyweight. His experience and seasoning set him apart from Democrats Ted Cabral of Petaluma and Roni Jacobi of Santa Rosa and Republican Ron Sondergaard of Sebastopol.

With the advantages of incumbency and $1.6 million in the bank, Levine may cruise to a fifth term. But there's still an opportunity for an informative debate.

Under California's primary system, the candidates finishing first and second advance to the general election regardless of their political party affiliation. Of the challengers, we believe Cabral stands out.

Cabral, the general manager of a family owned motorcycle dealership, is a native of Petaluma and a two-term member of the California Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Commission, appointed by ex-Gov. Jerry Brown. His experience in government oversight is good training for the legislative process. So would his insider's knowledge of the state's park and recreation system. He is running a low-budget campaign and says he will continue to rely on his website and word of mouth if he advances to the general election.

Jacobi, who served one term on the Santa Rosa City Council, is unwavering in her commitment to fighting climate change. But instead of offering a vision for statewide action or even proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a large-scale basis, she tends to get bogged down in household-level responses like organic gardens and rainwater harvesting. They're fine ideas, but don't require legislative leadership.

Sondergaard is an unequivocally conservative alternative to the three Democrats. He opposes abortion, supports school vouchers, expresses skepticism about climate change and favors lower taxes, including a novel proposal to excuse senior citizens from paying property taxes. California would benefit from two strong political parties, but in a district where just 15% of voters are registered Republican, Sondergaard's views make him the longest of longshots.

Levine declined an invitation to appear with his opponents at a campaign forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. That's unfortunate. We believe that elected officials owe their constituents an opportunity to ask questions and to weigh their representatives against their challengers at election time.

And Levine has some substantive legislative accomplishments to offset proposals like the mandatory voting bill and a 2016 proposal for state occupational health officials to establish weight standards for fashion models. In 2019, for instance, he sponsored legislation to prevent broadband providers from reducing access for first responders during an emergency. Yes, that happened during California's wildfires.

Levine reached Sacramento by taking risks and challenging entrenched interests, and while it's disappointing to see him ducking earnest, if underfunded challenges, he has been a conscientious lawmaker for the North Bay. The Press Democrat recommends Marc Levine in the 10th Assembly District.

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