Mark Levine (politician)

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Mark Levine
Mark Levine and the Constitution.jpg
Mark Levine and the Constitution, 2014
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the 45th district
Assumed office
January 13, 2016
Preceded byRob Krupicka
Personal details
Born
Mark H. Levine

(1966-05-07) May 7, 1966 (age 52)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
ResidenceAlexandria, Virginia
Alma materHarvard University (A.B.)
University of Neuchâtel (Fulbright)
Yale Law School (J.D.)

Mark H. Levine (born May 7, 1966) is the Democratic Delegate to the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia's 45th district,[2] which encompasses the eastern half of Alexandria, some of the northern West End, parts of South Arlington, and the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County.[3] A Constitutional lawyer, Levine served as legislative counsel to Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) from 2001 to 2003 and was an early advocate in the "Marriage Equality" movement. Since 2003, Levine has hosted a nationally syndicated progressive public policy radio program and worked as a TV pundit. In 2015, Levine was elected as a Democrat to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he currently serves.

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Born in Nashville, Tennessee,[4] Levine earned an economics degree magna cum laude from Harvard University, was a Fulbright scholar in Switzerland, and obtained a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. Levine worked as a Nazi hunter, Jewish historian, and inner-city school teacher before becoming a trial attorney at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP in Los Angeles, California.[5][6]

Murder of Levine's sister; domestic violence victims' advocate[edit]

In 1996, Levine's sister Janet Levine March was murdered by her husband Perry; her body has never been found and it took a decade to amass enough other evidence to convict him. In response, Levine drafted a Tennessee law to protect victims of domestic violence and their children.[4] The law passed unanimously. A commentator wrote:

Rather than dwelling on his own misery, Mark turned the vision derived from his family's very personal tragedy into a political action that would protect other women from suffering as his sister did.[7]

Levine flew to Mexico to track down his sister's killer and testified in court against him.[8] March was sentenced to 56 years in prison for murdering Janet and conspiring to kill Levine's parents.[9]

According to the Washington Post, the murder spawned "Levine's interest in lawmaking."[10]

Gay-rights advocacy[edit]

In 1994, Levine helped organize a march on Hollywood and met personally with high-ranking studio executives to demand they depict gay and lesbian characters in a positive light.[11]

In 1999, Levine was one of the four original founders of Marriage Equality California. He "barnstormed across California to oppose Proposition 22 and then arranged America's first public "mass-marriage" protest for gay and lesbian couples. This modest attempt on February 14, 2000 to marry at a Beverly Hills courthouse became the first of the "Valentine's Day Marriage Protests" that would later sweep the country. Levine writes he:

promised the police and court officials that we would not be violent in any way. And court officials, in turn, graciously agreed to waive the marriage license fee, since we all knew they would reject our attempts to get married. I remember it was a beautiful day, and a joyful one: We all smiled ear-to-ear knowing we were attempting something that was then impossible but which every one of us thought would eventually become possible.[12][11]

Later that year, Levine drafted the first law introduced in the United States to give lesbian and gay couples equal rights to straight couples at both the state and federal levels. Levine's law, introduced in California in February 2001 as AB 1338 by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, went further than Vermont's civil unions law which only protected same-sex couples at the state level. Levine says local and nationwide gay and lesbian organizations opposed Levine's marriage equality law at the time as too "radical" and "politically impossible" and forced Koretz to withdraw it. At the time Levine's bill was introduced, no same-sex couples could get married anywhere in the world.[13][14][15]

Although Levine's first legislation to help same-sex couples did not become law, his second attempt was a success. In 2009, Levine worked with Councilman Phil Mendelson to draft the District of Columbia's marriage equality law which passed 11-2 and then represented the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club pro bono in court to defeat the opponents of the new law who wanted to put it up for a referendum vote. Levine successfully argued in court that such a referendum would be a violation of D.C.'s Human Rights Act."[16]

Challenge to Bush v. Gore[edit]

In 2001, Levine called President Bush's selection by the Supreme Court to be President "illegitimate" and argued: "If we can't have the right to vote than how can we start thinking about anything else?"[6] Michael Moore has called Levine's explanation of the Bush v. Gore opinion[17] a "Simple Q&A that Every American Should Read" and "the best thing he's seen" on the issue.[18]

In December 2000, Levine was hired by the Congressional Black Caucus to appeal the United States Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore to the United States Congress. At the joint session of Congress, when it came time to count Florida's electoral votes, the Congressional Black Caucus presented the legal challenge Levine had drafted. If the action had succeeded, it would have prevented George W. Bush from becoming President of the United States. The legal appeal was rejected, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several other House Members walked out in protest.[19][20]

Legislative counsel to Barney Frank[edit]

Mark Levine and Barney Frank

In January 2001, Levine moved from California to Alexandria, Virginia to serve three years as chief legislative counsel to Barney Frank, a high-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Financial Services Committees. In that capacity Levine says he learned how Washington really works: from the way bills become law to political negotiations, spin, administration secrets, and dangerous lapses in American security.[5] While working for Frank, Levine used bipartisan back channels to ensure that LGBT 9/11 survivors were treated equally in distributions from the victims compensation fund. He also personally persuaded Hillary Clinton to withdraw her endorsement from President Bush's faith-based initiative, which would have allowed the federal government to discriminate on the basis of religion. Levine credits his one-on-one conversation with Clinton as what "killed" the initiative.[7]

Talk-radio and investigative journalism[edit]

Levine in 2003

In 2003, Levine began hosting the radio show Mark Levine's Inside Scoop on Washington on WAGE in Leesburg, Virginia and began in 2005 his local Fairfax County, Virginia television show The Inside Scoop. Levine has also hosted The AM Alternative, co-hosted The Raucous Caucus and News Views, and served as a weekly guest host of The Leslie Marshall Show. Levine was the only non-African-American host on XM/Sirius The Power. Today, Levine's program is carried on 43 radio stations nationwide and locally on WPFW (89.3 FM)'s Pacifica Radio. From July to December 2007, Levine hosted the television show The American Dream on Press TV, until, he says, Press TV tried to censor him. Levine also has served as an investigative journalist, doing stories uncovering spies at the FBI and spreading the word in 2006 about the national government monitoring the telephone calls of the vast majority of ordinary American citizens. Levine has broken national stories such as "Why the FBI Squelched an Investigation of a Post-9/11 Meeting Between White Supremacist and Islamic Extremists"[21] and the rape, torture, and abuse of American teenagers in lockup boot camps, wilderness camps, and reform schools. Levine often follows up his investigative stories with legislative action. For example, he worked with Congressman George Miller (D-CA) to craft legislation to protect American teenagers from this institutional abuse.[22]

Since 2009, Levine has frequently appeared as a pundit on FOX News, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox Business, RT, CNN Headline News, and many other television stations locally, nationally, and worldwide. Levine is well known and occasionally mocked for keeping a Constitution in his pocket when he debates on air.

Candidacy for US Congress[edit]

Levine speaking in Alexandria, 2014

On February 18, 2014, Levine became one of ten candidates entering the June 10, 2014 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Representative Jim Moran.[23]

Levine said he would distinguish himself from the other candidates by being "an aggressive progressive who doesn't just cast one out of 435 votes." With his media savvy, Levine said, "we can go over the heads of the Republican Party to the American people."[24]

In their rating of the candidates in the race, BlueVirginia.us gave Levine its highest rating of A/A- .

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.[25]

Virginia House of Delegates[edit]

On June 9, 2015, Levine won a five-way Democratic primary to represent Virginia's 45th District in the House of Delegates.[26] On November 3, 2015, facing no opposition in the general election, Levine won with 95% of the vote.[27]

In February 2017, Levine faced a primary challenge from the former chair of the Alexandria School Board Karen Graf, who said she had "no particular criticism of Levine."[28] In that primary campaign, Levine garnered the endorsement of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and 36 other state and local officials.[28] Graf dropped out of the race a month after entering it, leaving Levine unopposed in the Democratic primary.[29]

On November 7, 2017, facing no opposition in the general election, Levine won re-election to represent Virginia's 45th District in the House of Delegates with more than 95% of the vote.[30] His vote total of 31,417 was the highest of any candidate in the General Assembly in that election, as he was the only House of Delegates candidate that year to receive more than 30,000 votes.[30]

Virginia Transparency Caucus[edit]

In January 2016, Levine co-founded with Republican Senator Amanda Chase the Virginia Transparency Caucus, a bi-partisan bi-cameral caucus of the Virginia General Assembly designed to bring transparency to state government.[31] By 2017, 85 of Virginia's 140 delegates and senators had joined the caucus and signed a letter demanding: (1) recorded votes in subcommittees, (2) the livestreaming and archiving of all proceedings in committees and on the floor, and (3) the livestreaming and archiving of all proceedings in subcommittees.[32] In the 2018 session, the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates agreed to the first two of these key changes spearheaded by the Virginia Transparency Caucus.[33]

Philosophy[edit]

Levine has described himself as "someone who goes out and strives to achieve the impossible and sometimes succeeds."[34] He was quoted by CNN.com in 2001 as basing his political philosophy on the Jewish principle of tikkun olam: "We have to do our duty. ... If I see something that I think is unjust I just want to change it."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Trickey, Helyn. "Mr. Levine Goes to Washington".
  2. ^ "Richmond Sunlight » Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria)". www.richmondsunlight.com. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  3. ^ "Current District Maps". Commonwealth of Virginia Division of Legislative Services. 2010. Archived from the original on 2017-09-07. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  4. ^ a b "Nashville native Mark Levine running for Congress in Virginia".
  5. ^ a b "60th Annual Conference on World Affairs - Participants". 2008-06-08. Archived from the original on 2008-06-08.
  6. ^ a b Trickey, Helyn. "Mr. Levine Goes to Washington".
  7. ^ a b ""Aggressive Progressive" Mark Levine Speaks Publicly for 1st Time About Sister's Murder . ... - Blue Virginia". www.bluevirginia.us. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  8. ^ Michael Glasgow, Phyllis Gobbel. "Chapters 20 and 42". An Unfinished Canvas: A True Story of Love, Family, and Murder in Nashville.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Perry March sentenced - Nashville Post". Nashville Post. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  10. ^ Sullivan, Patricia. Murder, custody and justice: The making of a political candidate, Washington Post, June 28, 2015
  11. ^ a b Levine, Mark (26 June 2013). "Vindication for the Long Fight for Marriage Equality". Huffington Post.
  12. ^ Mark Levine is a pioneer in the Marriage Equality movement by MarkLevineForCongress, March 30, 2014, at bluevirginia.us
  13. ^ Levine, Mark (14 May 2012). "How Far We Have Come". Huffington Post.
  14. ^ Saskia Kim and Drew Liebert (November 2001). "A Primer on Civil Unions" (PDF). California Assembly Judiciary Committee. Retrieved March 29, 2018.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  15. ^ "It's Not Dead Yet . ." 31 January 2002. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  16. ^ Craig, Tim (2009-05-28). "Group Seeks to Block D.C. Bill Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages". ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  17. ^ "The "Gore Exception": A Layman's Guide to the United States Supreme Court Decision in Bush v. Gore". www.mediasense.com. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  18. ^ Moore, Michael. "A Simple Q&A that Every American Should Read". Archived from the original on 2014-04-15. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
  19. ^ Editor, Helyn Trickey||CNN.com Interactivity. "CNN.com - Career - Mr. Levine goes to Washington - January 9, 2001". edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  20. ^ "Brief to Congress: Certification of Florida Electors, January 2001". www.mediasense.com. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  21. ^ Levine, Mark (8 July 2009). "Why the FBI Squelched an Investigation of a Post-9/11 Meeting Between White Supremacist and Islamic Extremists". Retrieved 29 March 2018 – via AlterNet.
  22. ^ "Democracy for America : Home". www.democracyforamerica.com. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  23. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (2 April 2014). "Ballot order set in Virginia 8th district congressional primary". Retrieved 29 March 2018 – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  24. ^ Pershing, Ben. "Derek Hyra, Mark Levine entering Democratic field to replace Rep. James P. Moran in House". The Washington Post.
  25. ^ Feld, Lowell. "Applying My 8 Criteria to the 8th CD Candidates: Mark Levine".
  26. ^ "Silberberg, Levine win Democratic primaries - Alexandria Times - Alexandria, VA". alextimes.com.
  27. ^ "2015 November General".
  28. ^ a b Sullivan, Patricia (2017-02-19). "Va. Democrats to challenge GOP state lawmakers in each district Clinton won". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  29. ^ "Karen Graf drops out of 45th district race | Alexandria Times | Alexandria, VA". alextimes.com. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  30. ^ a b "2017 November General". results.elections.virginia.gov. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  31. ^ "Transparency Caucus Urges Open Government - Emporia News". emporianews.com.
  32. ^ Service, Jesse Adcock Capital News. "Most Virginia House bills die on unrecorded votes". INSIDENOVA.COM.
  33. ^ Times-Dispatch, ANDREW CAIN Richmond. "Percentage of bills killed on unrecorded votes drops in Virginia General Assembly". Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  34. ^ lowkell (13 April 2014). "Mark Levine Opening Statement (4/12/14)" – via YouTube.

External links[edit]