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Once we make an election endorsement, we hope to have the ability to say that the individual we suggest would serve ably, ethically and responsibly. Neither candidate for state insurance coverage commissioner passes that check.
The higher decide within the Nov. 8 runoff is incumbent Ricardo Lara. However that’s solely as a result of the choice, San Jose enterprise proprietor Robert Howell, is clueless concerning the job and could be an unmitigated catastrophe if elected.
This can be a hold-your-nose advice as a result of we really feel obliged to supply voters some steering as they decide between two horrible candidates.
Californians deserve higher decisions to guide the division of 1,400 staff accountable for overseeing well being, auto and home-owner insurance coverage charges — for regulating corporations that gather greater than $371 billion in premiums yearly in California. The insurance coverage commissioner in all probability impacts Californians’ lives greater than every other statewide officeholder besides governor.
As we mentioned earlier than the first election, Lara’s time period has been a humiliation paying homage to the ignominious tenure of Chuck Quackenbush, the insurance coverage commissioner who resigned in 2000 amid allegations that he tried to extract settlements from title insurance coverage corporations to finance an promoting marketing campaign that might profit him politically.
Since that scandal, for practically twenty years California’s insurance coverage commissioners turned away marketing campaign contributions tied to the one business they regulate — a recognition of the necessity for impartial oversight untainted by political cash.
Till Lara got here alongside. After vowing to not settle for business cash, he broke that promise in 2018 after which after his election shortly started elevating extra from these he regulates for this 12 months’s marketing campaign.
The San Diego Union Tribune calculated that Lara collected a minimum of $270,000 from 56 individuals and firms with insurance coverage business ties. In the meantime, senior Division of Insurance coverage officers overturned administrative regulation judges a minimum of 5 instances, every time benefitting an organization tied to among the donors, the Union Tribune reported.
On the New 12 months’s Eve after his election, Lara partied in London with an business lobbyist and two months later lunched in Sacramento with lobbyists and business executives who had enterprise pending earlier than him, the Sacramento Bee reported. He even billed California taxpayers for lease on his Sacramento residence, Politico reported.
As a shopper watchdog group was suing Lara for data from communications inside his workplace and with lobbyists representing key marketing campaign donors, his company final 12 months out of the blue adopted a coverage of mechanically deleting emails after six months. However after media scrutiny, the company rescinded the coverage in January.
It’s arduous to think about a candidate who may very well be worse. After which in walked Howell, who demonstrates little concept of why he’s working or what the job of insurance coverage commissioner entails. He was probably the most ill-prepared candidate for statewide workplace that we now have encountered.
“What would I do as commissioner?” he responded echoing again our first query. He paused after which mentioned “OK, that’s truthful” as he gave the impression to be trying to find a solution.
At one level, he lastly mentioned he would cease house insurance coverage corporations from charging extra for protection in fire-prone areas. And the way would he try this? “Good query,” he replied. “The 1,400 individuals who work within the workplace, they’re alleged to know the way to sort things. That’s what individuals within the trenches are for. They need to do their job.”
It was surreal however not stunning coming from Howell. We’ve interviewed him earlier than as he’s run for different places of work. When he ran in 2020 for state Senate, he got here into his interview with us equally unprepared. He informed us then that he supported Donald Trump and was “proud to put on a MAGA hat.”
Throughout this marketing campaign, he says he’s nonetheless a “Trump Republican” however now calls himself a “Reagan Republican” as a result of “Trump rubs individuals the mistaken manner.” Sheesh!
Howell is the president and chief engineer of Exatron, a San Jose-equipment manufacturing agency with about 45 full-time staff. He managed to narrowly slip into the runoff with a second-place major end as a result of 4 Democrats had been on the poll dividing their occasion’s votes whereas Howell was one in every of solely two Republicans. He acquired 18.1% of the vote, edging out Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who garnered 18.0%.
Had Levine made the runoff, this is able to have been a wholly totally different race — with a reputable, moral candidate on the poll. As an alternative, Californians face an terrible alternative between Lara and Howell. Attempt to not gag as you forged your vote.