San Rafael activist impersonates Assembly candidate at forum

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax
Marin Independent Journal

Activist Jonathan Frieman ruffled some feathers last week when he participated in a forum for the Assembly, congressional and Marin supervisors’ races, proclaiming himself to be a write-in candidate with a name closely resembling another candidate’s.

Organizers for the Marin City Community Forum, which took place Thursday at the Marin City senior center, said they seated Frieman at the candidates’ table after the San Rafael resident informed them that he was a write-in Assembly candidate.

“Leading up to the event we got some requests from individuals who proclaimed themselves to be write-in candidates, and we of course took those people at their word for being write-in candidates,” said John Young, executive director of Marin Grassroots, one of the forum’s organizers. “It was unfortunate that we found out later on that Jonathan Frieman was not a verified write-in candidate through the registrar of voters office.”

Frieman, who has a long-standing beef with San Rafael Councilman Marc Levine, an Assembly candidate, said he wrote the name “Mark Levine” on his identification placard and responded to questions while impersonating Levine at the forum. Levine was seated several chairs away at the same table.

During the forum, Frieman said he told the audience of more than 100 community members, “You all know me as Jonathan Frieman, and I am running as a write-in candidate, but because I shall model myself after Marc Levine, I am changing my name to Mark Levine, with a ‘k.’ Why? Because, as he said when he was asked why he was running, ‘It’s my time.’”

Frieman said Tuesday afternoon that he intended to file as a write-in candidate before the 4:30 p.m. deadline that same day. He was investigating whether it would be legal to file as “Mark Levine.”

However, Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said Frieman wasn’t successful because he hadn’t been aware of a requirement to gather several dozen signatures to qualify as a write-in candidate. She noted that candidates must file with the same name under which they’re registered to vote.

Anything else would be “misleading and fraudulent,” she said.

Frieman supported Levine in his successful 2009 bid for San Rafael City Council and spent thousands of dollars on mailers against candidate Gary Ford, who was also seeking a seat on the council that year.

However, tensions developed between the two after Levine voted in favor of bringing a Target store to East San Rafael, a plan the City Council approved last year in a 3-2 vote. Frieman has raised numerous other complaints about Levine in fliers he’s distributed at Assembly debates and forums.

Democratic Assembly candidate Alex Easton-Brown said Frieman proclaimed himself to be “the real Marc Levine” at the Marin City forum.

“He said, ‘I am the real Marc Levine. That Marc Levine is an imitation,’” Easton-Brown said.

A video of the debate wasn’t available yet Tuesday, and Levine declined to comment through his consultant Leo Wallach, who called the incident a “publicity stunt.”

“If there was any misrepresentation to get on the panel, and it sounds like there was, then that is between the organizers and the person trying to get on the panel,” Wallach said in an email. “The group sent an email apologizing to Marc, but Marc doesn’t think there is any need for the group to apologize to him — they were trying to host a public forum in good faith.”

Young, of Marin Grassroots, said he hopes the incident doesn’t cast a shadow on an otherwise successful event.

“The greater story is we got like 90 percent of candidates for office that responded to the forum in Marin City,” Young said. “Given the amount of voting population in Marin City, we thought that was pretty outstanding that they chose to come.”

In addition to Levine and Easton-Brown, fellow Democratic candidates Michael Allen and H. Christian Gunderson and Republican Peter Mancus participated in the forum, organizers said. Democrat Connie Wong and independent candidate Joe Boswell weren’t present.

The open primary for the District 10 Assembly seat will take place June 5.

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