Home 2014 Races Applying My 8 Criteria to the 8th CD Candidates: Mark Levine

Applying My 8 Criteria to the 8th CD Candidates: Mark Levine


This past Saturday, I listed my 8 criteria for choosing the Democratic nominee in the 8th CD race. How do these criteria apply to specific candidates? I started with former Virginia Lt. Governor Don Beyer, continued with Del. Mark Sickles, Bruce Shuttleworth, Del. Charniele Herring, Lavern Chatman, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, and Adam Ebbin. I now turn to “Talk Radio Host and TV Pundit” Mark Levine (note: don’t confuse Mark Levine with far-right-wing hate radio host Mark Levin; they are polar opposites in every way, other than being on the radio and TV).

1. The next Representative from the 8th CD should be a strong, rock-solid progressive.

Levine doesn’t have a voting record since he hasn’t held elective office, but he has a long track record in politics (e.g., LGBT activism, legislative counsel for several years to Rep. Barney Frank) and in expressing his political views (e.g., hundreds if not thousands of TV and radio appearances, plus blog posts). A few highlights from his website’s “about” section:

*”Former Legislative Counsel to Democratic Congressman Barney Frank.”

*”Mark’s diverse legislative resume includes authoring for the Congressional Black Caucus the official Constitutional Challenge to the 2000 Bush/Gore Election, writing path-breaking domestic-violence and gay-rights legislation, defeating the Bush faith-based initiative, and drafting a section of the USA-PATRIOT Act. He’s held jobs as diverse as corporate trial attorney, inner-city school teacher, and Nazi-hunter for the U.S. Department of Justice.”

*”Whether the attacks come from the Right or the Left, Mark strives for consistency in his political philosophy, and he wields his pocket Constitution as rhetorical weapon. Mark holds an economics degree magna cum laude from Harvard, where he wrote his thesis under the direction of President Reagan’s chief economic advisor Martin Feldstein.  He also has a law degree from Yale and a Fulbright Scholarship from Switzerland. He is a Senior Fellow with the Truman National Security Project.”

A few sample Mark Levine blog posts include:

*The Unconstitutional Republican Tantrum

*How Cutting Taxes for the Rich, Instead of the Middle Class, Harms Economic Growth

*Republican Neo-Hooverism is Primary Cause of Deepening Depression

*The Tea-Party = McCarthyism + John Birch Society

*A Layman’s Guide to the Supreme Court Decision in Bush v. Gore

I think that gives a good flavor for where Mark Levine is coming from – strongly progressive, no doubt about it. Also note that I’ve also had the chance over the years to talk to Mark Levine, listen to him speak and watch him take on the Bill O’Reillys of the world (see video), and I’d say the two of us are in agreement on the vast majority of national and international political issues.

2. I want to see a tenacious, indefatigable FIGHTER for progressive values.

Over the years, Mark Levine has been a tenacious, effective fighter against right wingnuts and for progressive values. Also worth pointing out is that Levine – unlike most of the other candidates running for this seat – has been focused on a wide range of national issues (as opposed to specific niches of national policy, or a focus on state/local issues) for many years. Basically, this guy is a disciple of Rep. Barney Frank (Levine calls Frank his “mentor”) and would be very much in Frank’s mold. So, basically, if you like Barney Frank, you’re also likely to be a Mark Levine fan.

3. We need a Representative who will fight for the 8th CD.

Mark Levine is most certainly a fighter, but given that he’s never held elective office (which is not a knock or a disqualifier, by the way), I don’t have any specific basis to determine how effectively he’d fight for the interests specifically of the 8th CD. My gut feeling is that he’d do a fine job in this area.

4. We’re going to be losing some big-time seniority and need to build it back up.

I’m not sure exactly how old Levine is, but he seems pretty young (40s I presume) to me. He should have plenty of time to build of seniority in Congress if he’s elected.

5. We want, need, and deserve a Representative who has the highest ethical standards and who makes us proud every day.

To my knowledge, Mark Levine has no personal ethical issues of any kind.

6. A superb, impressive track record of accomplishment over the years.

See item #1 above for highlights of Mark Levine’s resume. I’d certainly say he has an interesting, unique track record that’s highly impressive in its own way. I very much look forward to: a) seeing whether Levine puts together a serious campaign and b) how he does at debates and public forums of various types. That will tell us if he can make the transition from being an effective analyst, activist, advocate, advisor and commentator to a politician. My guess is that he’ll do fine, but we’ll see soon enough.

7. Obviously, we want someone who will do a great job on “constituent services.”

I have no basis to judge Mark Levine on this criterion, as he’s never held elective office, although my gut feeling is that he’d do a good job. Let’s leave this one as a partial “incomplete” for now.

8. I want to see a “heavyweight” in this job — someone who is a serious policy wonk, someone who really loves diving into the weeds of legislation, someone who can go toe-to-toe with Republicans and Tea Partiers (and conservative and/or corporate Democrats for that matter) in the battle of ideas.

Mark Levine is a brilliant attorney and most definitely a big-time national (and international to a lesser extent) policy wonk. He’s also demonstrated that he’s highly adept at going toe-to-toe with Teapublicans, at the level of the Bill O’Reillys of the world (see video).

Overall: Mark Levine is an unconventional candidate, ergo not easy to rate by the criteria I’ve laid out. I could give him an “incomplete” for now, but I really see no reason to do that. The bottom line is that he’s been a strong, effective fighter for progressive values at the national level for years now. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be taken very seriously as a candidate for this office, and why 8th CD residents shouldn’t consider supporting him. I give him an A/A-, with the “minus” part coming only because he hasn’t ever held elective office.

  • U2Bneutral


    It was nine years ago that I first met Mark at a Northern Virginia Business Council Breakfast where he was talking about the “Patriot Act”, parts of the earliest most version he helped write…. In that time as his TV producer for our hundreds of weekly shows and numerous specials etc. I have never known Mark to have anything but the highest ethics and morals possible. Telling the truth and what he really feels/knows has cost him numerous appearances on Faux News , CNN and others, but he never compromised ever in those 9 years. He enjoys respectful friendships with numerous congressmen(such as John Conyers, Barney Frank etc.) and senators who all know him as a straight shooter, respectful and trustworthy.

    I also think your point about Mark’s knowledge/orientation to the national and international subject matter/issues has been key. The statement that all politics are local is so very real usually, but the complexity and nuance of the issues at the national level brings a whole different perspective and requires different skills and experience than the local and state legislation.

  • JonesNj

    I have watched and known Mr. Levine for the last couple of years from his progressive talk show. Mark is that rare mix of someone who is a fiery progressive, ready to loudly and passionately defend our values and call out the hypocrisy of the other side but also with the intense intellectual and policy knowledge to get things done. Too often we are forced to choose between the candidate who can make impassioned speeches and the candidate who can operate and get things done when the cameras are gone and real work needs to be done. With Mark I feel that the 8th will be well served by a man who can out argue Bill O’Reilly any day of the week while continuing the 8th tradition of progressive leadership.  

  • pvogel

    I had coffee with Mark  at cameron Station yesterday,  I was most impressed.