Editorial vote for Lara for Insurance Commissioner – InsuranceNewsNet

Editorial vote for Lara for Insurance Commissioner – InsuranceNewsNet

When we make an electoral endorsement, we hope to be able to say that the person we are recommending will serve skillfully, ethically, and responsibly. None of the candidates for state insurance commissioner pass that test.

The better choice in November 8 a runoff is in effect Ricardo Lara. But that’s only because the alternative, San Jose business owner Robert Howellis clueless about the job and would be a total disaster if elected.

This is a hold-your-nose recommendation because we feel obligated to offer voters some guidance as they choose between two terrible candidates.

Californians deserve a better choice to lead the 1,400-employee department responsible for overseeing health, auto and home insurance rates — to regulate companies that collect more than 371 billion dollars in premiums per annum in California. The insurance commissioner probably impacts the lives of Californians more than any other state official except the governor.

As we said before the primaries, Lara’s tenure was an embarrassment reminiscent of the disgraceful tenure of Chuck Quackenbushthe insurance commissioner who resigned in 2000 amid allegations that he tried to extract settlements from insurance companies to finance an advertising campaign that would benefit him politically.

After that scandal, for nearly two decades California insurance commissioners have refused campaign contributions related to the only industry they regulate — a recognition of the need for independent oversight untainted by political money.

Until Lara came along. After promising not to accept industry money, he broke that promise in 2018 and, after his election, quickly began raising more of those he regulates for this year’s campaign.

San Diego Union Tribune estimate that Lara collected at least $270,000 of 56 people and companies related to the insurance industry. Meanwhile, Sr Department of Insurance officials overruled administrative judges at least five times, each time favoring a company linked to some of the donors, Union Tribune reported.

As a consumer watchdog group sued Lara for records of communications in his office and with lobbyists representing key campaign donors, his agency last year suddenly adopted a policy of automatically deleting emails after six months. But after media scrutiny, the agency reversed the policy in January.

It is hard to imagine a candidate who could be worse. And then Howell came in, showing little idea why he’s running or what the job of insurance commissioner entails. He was the most ill-prepared candidate for public office we have ever met.

“What would I do as commissioner?” he replied, repeating our first question. He paused and then said “Okay, that’s fair” 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 you do it? “Good question,” he replied. “The 1,400 people who work in the office need to know how to fix things. That’s what people in the trenches are for. They have to do their job.”

Howell is president and chief engineer of Exatron, a San Jose– an equipment manufacturing company with about 45 full-time employees. He managed to narrowly sneak into the runoff with a runner-up finish in the primary because four democrats were on the ballot, splitting their party’s vote, while Howell was one of only two Republicans. He received 18.1% of the vote, ahead of the MP Mark LevinD-San Rafaelwhich collected 18.0%.

Had Levine been on the runoff, it would have been a very different race — with a credible, ethical candidate on the ballot. Instead, Californians are faced with a terrible choice between Lara and Howell. Try not to gag while voting.

Bay Area News Group

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