The State of California is seeking a top regulator for the insurance industry, including the home, auto and life markets.
- Can effectively manage the nearly 1,400 employees of the Department of Insurance
- Is willing to work on policies that most people don’t want to think about — until something really bad happens
- Has the ability to wrangle the interests of homeowners in wildfire-prone areas with those of the companies that see insuring those properties as a losing proposition
- Duties include: Guiding the department to approve rate increases when financially necessary, making sure insurers treat consumers fairly, and ensuring that companies have enough money to pay out promised coverage.
$174,843 a year, plus the opportunity to directly save Californians money — or take the heat when rates go up.
About the hiring process:
In 2018, Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara defeated Steve Poizner, who ran as an independent but was a Republican when he served as the insurance commissioner from 2007 to 2011. Lara became the California’s first openly gay statewide officeholder.
In 2020, the pandemic kept many Californians off the road, reducing accident claims for auto insurers. Lara directed the companies to refund some premiums, saving customers more than $2.4 billion, according to the insurance department. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog estimates that drivers are still owed more — $5.5 billion according to their analysis — from overcharges during 2020. Last October, Lara ordered three large auto insurers, with 20% of the market, to provide detailed data how they will reimburse drivers or face legal action.
Lara also temporarily blocked companies from dropping home insurance policies in fire-prone areas, backed an unsuccessful bill to force insurance companies to cover homes in those areas that are protected up to state standards, and proposed rules to require companies to offer discounts to homeowners who protect their homes.
Lara has also generated some scandal. First, it was for accepting campaign donations from people in the insurance industry after pledging not to, including from an executive of a company that had a case pending before the department. Then, it was for renting a second residence in Sacramento, where his work as commissioner often takes him, and sticking taxpayers with the bill.
Democratic Assemblymember Marc Levine, Lara’s most prominent challenger, is aggressively going after Lara. Levine accuses Lara of not doing enough to protect homeowners in wildfire areas from losing their coverage. Levine’s campaign also created a video and sent out mailers attacking Lara for taking donations from the industry. Levine has a lengthy list of campaign promises, which include ordering insurance companies to return money to consumers from pandemic overcharges and barring companies from taking customers’ education and occupation into account when pricing their auto insurance coverage — a loophole that the department has also proposed regulations to close.
Lara’s campaign sent out mailers criticizing Levine’s voting record on labor issues. Lara has garnered endorsements from the California Democratic Party, California Environmental Voters, the California Nurses Association, Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, as well as labor groups and other state and national officials. Levine’s endorsements include Amar Shergill, chairperson of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus; M. Ronald Cohen, chairperson of the California Democratic Party Veterans Caucus; and the California Nurses Association.
- American Independent
- Peace & Freedom
- No Party