By David Ganezer

SMMUSD's Ben Allen Says He's In It To Win It


March 17, 2014

I have known Ben Allen since he worked for The Observer in 1998 gathering subscriptions. Since then, he's gone on to Berkeley Law School, and the SMMUSD Board. I caught up with the Candidate for Ted Lieu's vacant State Senate Seat today. He has gathered some major endorsements, raised over $250,000, and appears to be the leading candidate for the seat that stretches South from Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach. I asked him the following questions.

Why are you running for State Senate?

I've been on the School Board for the past 6 years, two years before that on the University of California's Board of Regents, and I teach education law and policy at UCLA Law School. Needless to say, I've been thinking about, teaching, writing about, and working on state issues for a long time. When this vacancy opened up and Senator Fran Pavley and LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said they would get behind me, I was excited about taking on this opportunity to serve this community that I love on another level.

It's been exhausting but fun--I've really enjoyed getting out there and talking to people, learning about a new set of issues. This campaign is very personal for me--I grew up in this community, my family is here, the streets, schools, stores, and parks of this area have personal resonance with me that goes back deeply into my childhood. Needless to say, I'm really anxious to preserve our quality of life here.

I'm proud to have received the support of most of the elected officials in Santa Monica and growing list of leaders from all over the district, including respected regional leaders such as Zev Yaroslavsky and Fran Pavley. I'm happy at the pace at which I've been able to raise money, and I think I can bring a strong message to this very large district.

How are you Qualified for State Senate?

I'd say that I have a combination of deep roots in the district, lots of energy and ideas, mixed in with a good amount of relevant experience--I've been an elected leader locally for 6 years, 2 years before that at the Board of Regents, I have experience as a staffer on Capitol Hill working for Congressman Jose Serrano. So Washington is familiar to me and I would spend time fighting for funding and support for our community there. My two years on the UC Board of Regents gave me a deep familiarity with state-wide policy issues and the ins and outs of Sacramento and the challenges of statewide politics.

I'm proud of the leadership that I showed on the School Board, both as a member and as President of the Board. Folks in our area may not realize the extent to which most districts in the state were forced to dramatically deplete the size of their offerings and programs. I'm really proud that we were able to maintain the quality of our school district when other districts were cutting back considerably. We preserved nursing, music and arts programs, libraries, counseling services, physical education, and summer school program. This took a tremendous amount of hard work, creativity, working relationships to find the cuts and new revenues necessary to keep the district's finances strong. I was one of the folks at the center of those conversations-Measures Y/YY, the bond, our fundraising efforts, our targeted cuts, etc. I've had the opportunity to help a vitally important public agency through very difficult times, and know the challenges that local governments face. When I was at the UC, I worked on several committees focused on the University's relations with Sacramento, its leadership structure, and its long-term planning. I'm a lawyer and a law professor, have worked in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and I've been thinking a lot about the interplay between quality of life and the law, government, business, and regulation. Growing up here and having my family here gives me real insight into the needs of our community. Transportation, environment, job creation, economic development, and of course education being big areas of local concern.

You're 36 years old, which is on the young side. Do you have a realistic shot at it?

Absolutely, I've been getting big endorsements, I've been raising money and I have 8 years of experience on major public-policy making boards, six years as an elected official. I have considerable experience at the local, state, and national level in politics and policy. I have a strong geographic base from which to build a winning coalition of diverse ethnicities. My story and fundamentals are strong. And if you think about it, 36 isn't really that young, sadly! It's the age at which our senator Ted Lieu was first elected to the legislature. Henry Waxman was first elected to the legislature at the ripe age of 30, and was in Congress by the time he was 35. We've got a great team and a growing list of fantastic volunteers who are 100% committed to victory.

Are the opportunities for people to get involved in your campaign?

Thanks for asking! Come check out our website: We're looking for donors, volunteers, canvassers, we need people to host meet and greets, fundraisers, and events. I am looking to be connected to new communities throughout the district.

It's a fun way to get involved in the community, meet some great new people, and help out!


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