Editorial Vote for Lara as Insurance Commissioner – InsuranceNewsNet

When we do an electoral endorsement, we hope to be able to say that the person we recommend will serve competently, ethically and responsibly. No candidate for the position of insurance commissioner passes this test.

The best choice in the November 8 runoff is required Ricardo Lara. But that’s only because the alternative, San Jose company owner Robert Howelhas no idea what his job is and would be an absolute disaster if elected.

This is a recommendation to hold our noses, as we feel compelled to offer voters guidance when choosing between two awful candidates.

Californians deserve better picks to lead the department of 1,400 employees tasked with overseeing health, auto and home insurance rates — to regulate companies that collect more than $371 billion in premiums annually in California. The insurance commissioner probably has more impact on the lives of Californians than any other statewide office holder except the governor.

As we said before the primary election, Lara’s tenure has been an embarrassment reminiscent of the ignominious tenure of Chuck Quackenbushthe insurance commissioner who resigned in 2000 amid allegations that he tried to obtain settlements from title insurance companies to fund an advertising campaign that would be politically beneficial to him.

Since that scandal, for nearly two decades, California’s insurance commissioners have withheld campaign contributions tied to the single industry they regulate — a recognition of the need for independent oversight untainted by political money. .

Until Lara arrives. After swearing not to take money from industry, he broke that promise in 2018, then after his election he quickly began collecting more from those he regulates for this year’s campaign.

The San Diego Union Grandstand calculated that Lara had collected at least $270,000 of 56 people and companies with ties to the insurance industry. Meanwhile, senior Insurance Department officials have overthrown administrative judges at least five times, each time in favor of a company linked to some of the donors, the Union Tribune reported.

As a consumer watchdog group sued Lara over records of communications within her office and with lobbyists representing major campaign donors, her agency suddenly adopted an automatic email deletion policy last year. emails after six months. But after intense media scrutiny, the agency rescinded the policy in January.

It’s hard to imagine a candidate who could be worse. And then came Howell, who demonstrates some inkling of why he’s running or what the job of insurance commissioner entails. He was the most ill-prepared candidate for a statewide position we have encountered.

“What would I do as commissioner?” he replied, echoing our first question. He paused and then said “OK, that’s right” as he seemed to be searching for an answer.

At one point, he finally said he would stop home insurance companies from charging more for coverage in fire-prone areas. And how would he do that? “Good question,” he replied. “The 1,400 people who work in the office are supposed to know how to fix things. That’s what people in the trenches are for. They should do their job.

Howell is president and chief engineer of Exatron, a San Jose-Equipment manufacturing company with approximately 45 full-time employees. He managed to narrowly slip into the second round with a second place in the primary because four Democrats were on the ballot splitting their party’s votes while Howell was one of only two Republicans. He obtained 18.1% of the vote, ahead of the member of the Assembly Marc LevineD-Saint-Raphaelwhich collected 18.0%.

Had Levine made the runoff, it would have been an entirely different race — with a credible, ethical candidate on the ballot. Instead, the Californians face a dire choice between Lara and Howell. Try not to gag when you vote.

Bay Area News Group

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