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
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
As we said before the primaries, Lara’s tenure was an embarrassment reminiscent of the disgraceful tenure of
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.
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
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.