By Miriam Raftery
Photos: Steve Poizner, left, and Ricardo Lara, right
October 22, 2018 (Sacramento) – The next insurance commissioner will determine whether or not California fights to save health insurance for state residents against an onslaught of cuts proposed by the Trump administration, whether insurance companies will be held accountable for paying victims of wildfires for losses covered under insurance policies, whether cyber-insurance should be available to cover consumers’ losses from fraud, and more. The race pits Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara against Steve Poizner, a former Republican who previously held the office and is now running as an independent.
Poizner is trying to become the first no-party-preference candidate to win statewide office in California. But Cal Matters reports that to pay for his campaign, the former Republican has turned to people he knows best when it comes to raising money: Republicans. Poizner dropped his Republican registration before embarking on the current campaign. He’s not alone. GOP registration has fallen below 25 percent of the California electorate.
Poizner was a Republican when he was elected as insurance commissioner in 2006, and in 2010 when he ran to the right of billionaire Meg Whitman, who won the primary but lost the general election to Jerry Brown.
But now he says he wants to avoid partisanship, adding, “If I can win, that will open the door to lots of other people who will run for office.”
The wealthy tech entrepreneur has given his campaign over a million dollars and has raised another 1.2 million dollars from campaign donors, of which at least 224,000 dollars came from contributors who gave to his 2010 run for governor, when he ran as a Republican. Among the donors who have given to his current race and his 2010 run for governor are former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Edward Atsinger the third,, head of Salem Media Group, a leading conservative media company. Poisner insists, “I am super-clear with all my donors. I am an independent.”
But State Senator Lara, a Democrat running against Poizner, said the GOP donors show who Poizner really is, adding, “Democrats know this is potentially a new Republican strategy, running candidates as independent to see if they can win statewide.”
Poizner says he believes healthy competition in the insurance industry is the way to reduce the cost of doing business as well as lowering rates. When he previously served as insurance commission, he cut the department’s operating expenses by 15 percent.
Senator Lara says he’s running for state Insurance Commissioner because he believes California needs a “strong defender” who will stand up to President Trump. “If millions of Californians begin losing their health insurance because of actions taken by Donald Trump, I will be there to fight him tooth and nail at every pass,” Lara says.
He adds that as insurance commissioner, he’ll put patients and working families first by working to “represent the people of California, not the corporations, the billionaire class, the pharmaceutical or the insurance companies.”