October 6, 2021
A game of political musical chairs is underway in California as Democrats grapple with the problem of too many office-holders and not enough offices.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, announced recently he will challenge incumbent insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara in 2022. Lara, also a Democrat, was elected in 2018 to become the state’s eighth insurance commissioner.
Lara’s tenure has been marked by controversy. After running on a pledge to accept no campaign contributions from the insurance industry, he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from insurance executives, their spouses and others with business before his agency. Lara apologized and asserted that the donations were accepted by mistake. He pledged to return the money and suspend fundraising.
Records show that he returned some of the money, but also that his office intervened at least four times in proceedings involving a workers’ compensation insurer, Applied Underwriters, that directed donations to Lara, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Lara has also battled a Public Records Act lawsuit by Consumer Watchdog seeking emails and records of meetings.
Levine called Lara “conflicted” and said the agency needs “independent, strident leadership” at a time when thousands of homeowners are seeing their policies canceled or non-renewed over wildfire risk. He also vowed to be more aggressive in overseeing health and auto insurance premiums.
Lara has temporarily barred insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing homeowner policies in wildfire disaster areas for two consecutive years, but a permanent solution has been elusive. Levine introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 1522, to require insurance companies to offer catastrophic wildfire coverage and to create a state-managed fund to cover losses above $100 million in a year. The bill has not moved out of its first committee.
Lara has resumed fundraising and collected more than $329,000 in the first half of the year. His campaign spokeswoman said there are new vetting procedures in place.
With redistricting ahead, prepare to see more Democrat-versus-Democrat races.