The upcoming contest between Lee Pierce and Michael Allen may look and sound a lot like a campaign for the Santa Rosa City Council rather than the state Assembly.

Get ready for a debate over growth and big retail.

Allen, a Santa Rosa planning commissioner and aide to state Sen. Pat Wiggins, and Pierce, a former Santa Rosa councilman, are running in the Democratic primary for the seat now held by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, who is term-limited.

A legislative campaign offers plenty of topics for debate – the state’s perennial budget deficit, its rising debt, the combined impact on K-12 and higher education, crumbling roads and prison crowding to name a few.

Pierce, however, is starting out with big-box stores.

On Monday, he said a new poll shows that a majority of registered Democrats in the 7th Assembly District say big-box stores shouldn’t be banned from cities.  “Big boxes,  little boxes and every business in between provide thousands of jobs in this  community, generate local sales taxes to support city services, and all deserve  our support this season,”  said Pierce, who publicly agonized before voting in favor of Wal-Mart’s now abandoned plan for a Santa Rosa store.

Allen, if you’re not already aware, is a leader of the Accountable Development Coalition, which helped block Lowe’s plans for a Santa Rosa store. Building interests are furious with ADC, which recently reached an agreement with Codding Enterprises and is negotiating with SMART on labor and housing issues.

There may be room to debate whether opposition to Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and other big retailers is effectively the same as an effort to ban them outright, and Pierce didn’t release enough information to assess the validity of his poll. But he sent a clear signal about where he plans to take his campaign.

It should be an interesting contest.

— Jim Sweeney