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June 30, 2022
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Democrats challenge one another for insurance commissioner position in California
By Lonce Lamonte - June 2, 2022

California voters will in five days choose the top two finishers who will run for the next insurance commissioner in the November general election.

The insurance commissioner gives advisory rates only for workers’ compensation, but wields more significant power over home, auto, and property insurance.  The next commissioner will be counted upon to help homeowners in wildfire vulnerable areas to maintain their insurance.  

Nine candidates are running in the June 7th primary for California insurance commissioner, a regulator who can approve or reject certain rate increases and investigate fraud.   Incumbent Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Los Angeles, is looking to hold on to his seat amid a fierce challenge from fellow Democrat, San Rafael assembly member Marc Levine.

While much of the attention in the race has been centered on Lara and Levine, seven other contenders are also running for the post.  

Two other Democrat challengers are Dr. Vinson Eugene Allen and paralegal Jasper Jackson.  There are two Republicans, businessman and former California Public Utilities Commission president Greg Conlon and cybersecurity equipment manufacturer Robert Howell, and two minor party candidates: Veronika Fimbres, a nurse and Green Party member, and teacher Nathalie Hrizi from the Peace and Freedom Party.   Healthcare advocate Robert Molnar, who once worked for former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, is on the ballot as a “no party preference” candidate.

This race has drawn more interest this year for the campaign Levine has launched against Ricardo Lara, who is popular among top Democrats in the state.  He has been backed by the California Democratic Party, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders.
Thus, the democrat vs. democrat dynamic has made this race stand out more than the ones in the past.

During 2019, Lara’s first year in office, he was forced to apologize following reports that he billed taxpayers for a Sacramento apartment while living in Los Angeles.  That same year, Lara also apologized after news reports detailed how he accepted campaign donations from insurance industry representatives and their spouses and then soon after made decisions that favored the executives.  

“He is working on behalf of campaign donors,” opponent Marc Levine said. “He’s been a train wreck.”

California’s major newspaper editorial boards cited those issues in handling their coveted endorsements to Levine who was first elected to the state Assembly when he ousted a democratic incumbent in 2012.

Ricardo Lara declined to comment on Levine’s candidacy, saying through a spokesperson that he was focused on showcasing the work he’s done and what he will do in the future.  He highlighted his work to save California drivers $2.4 billion by requiring auto insurance companies to refund customers who largely stayed home during the pandemic, consequently reducing car accident claims.


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