Both Michael Allen and Betsy Butler faced difficult reelections in 2012. Butler decided to run in what was basically a new district when she opted for the progressive AD-50 seat. She did represent a small portion (less than 10%), but she certainly didn't carry the same incumbent advantage you typically expect. She defeated Torie Osborn and Richard Bloom in the primary, but with top-two she had to come back again to face Democratic Santa Monica mayor Bloom. Meanwhile in Marin County, Michael Allen had to move from his Santa Rosa base to a Marin district due to the new districts. Like Butler, Allen, while an incumbent, was new to these voters. San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine was something of a grassroots champion. He was very involved with the state Democratic party, serving as eboard rep for the old AD-6, as well as the local party. However, he saw the writing on the wall after his second place finish, and started aggressively courting independent and Republican voters.
The CalBuzz team took a deep dive into how the two races went downhill for the two "incumbents," and the story is well worth a careful read and a tale on how typically conservative interest groups will look at influencing a new one-party Legislature.
We also know that we'll see lots more of this kind of thing in the future - in both Democratic and Republican races - as the top-two primary system encourages moderate candidates with guts and gumption to take on left- and right-wingers in hopes of getting into a run-off election where independent and other-party voters can provide the margin of victory.
What makes these two Assembly races particularly intriguing is the fact that both Republican and Democratic strategists were crucial in electing moderate-to-liberal Democrats who were perceived as less beholden to labor unions and thus more palatable to business interests.
There's also the fact that the California Chamber and Western Growers - after thumping Mr. Speaker Himself - appear to have tried to hide their involvement by working through shell vendors, sharing valuable data and personnel and failing to report their spending until they were exposed months later. (HT to Dan Morain for digging into this whole issue.)(CalBuzz)
I won't spend a long time going over their article, but rather implore you to read the whole thing, and maybe again a second time. While I won't rehash the viscous AD-50 race that was already well documented here, I happen to personally like Marc Levine. I've known him for several years through CDP and other events, and he ran a strong campaign. The IEs that supported him, however, were hardly paragons for progressive values. Maybe a bit more disclosure will blunt the impact of these IEs, but they are clearly here to stay.
This piece first appeared in calitics.com