BEVERLY HILLS — With less than two weeks to go until the Golden State’s June 3 primary elections, the race for State Senator Ted Lieu’s 26th district seat is heating up in one of California’s most competitive contests. And despite Sandra Fluke’s 15 minutes of fame in 2012, she is seeing some major competition in the form of a Harvard graduate and Berkeley lawyer named Ben Allen, who has a strong track record and projects confidence.
“I think that I have a considerable amount of more experience [than Sandra],” Allen said in an interview with Breitbart News at a private reception in Beverly Hills.
“You know, I’ve balanced seven budgets….And I’ve sat down on the other side of very difficult negotiations in the government context,” he added.
Fluke rose to fame after being called a “slut” by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for advocating free birth-control under Obamacare. She is competing against Allen and six other Democrats, plus one independent, to make the top two in the June 3 primary.
When asked about what he thought of the other candidates, Allen only had kind words: “We have a good group of candidates on the campaign trail.” And then the question of experience and qualifications arose: Fluke is “very smart,” Allen said, but noted that “some [candidates] are more [qualified] than others.”
Allen, a California native and president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, emphasized his close work with the local business community in the greater Los Angeles region. He has also touted endorsements from prominent local politicians while Fluke has attained support from national figures.
“I’ve had to engage and bring together lots of different constituencies in my hometown from all across the political spectrum–so that’s something that I think separates me from the other candidates,” said Allen.
Fluke has emphasized her role as a symbol of women’s rights. Allen, not surprisingly, has taken a different approach.
“I think there are some stylistic differences between the two of us. I think we have different priorities, different things we want to focus on,” he said, noting that he’s been “elected and reelected to the school board” over which he presides.
Just last week, Fluke lost a key endorsement in the state Senate race, when the Santa Monica Democratic Club endorsed Allen in her stead. Endorsements from local parties are a key component to winning state and local elections.
Polling data in the 26th district is scarce, and the Allen campaign is not polling at the moment. However, Allen told Breitbart News: “I do keep hearing rumors about polls that show me in a very strong position right now. And I’m feeling very good about that.”
A key issue in his constituency is the ongoing debate over California’s pension funds crisis. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown proposed raising the state’s pension contributions to 9.5% from 8.5%, which would come from school districts and go towards teachers’ retirement funds.
The fear is that this move could trigger a major cut in school spending, directly impacting crucial programs for students. But Allen says: “I’m proud to have built a reputation as serving on a board where we’ve really been able to stretch every tax-payer dollar. I’ve made really tough decisions during the recession….At a time when most districts were just rolling back P.E. [Physical Education] and arts and nurses and libraries and all sorts of really strong programs, we were able to preserve those programs even though we were faced with considerable financial constraints as well.”
Allen attributes that success to “really smart financial planning, working closely with the community, building partnerships with the city, making targeted cuts and just being really smart about how we did our spending.”