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When we make a recommendation for an election, we hope that we will be able to say that the person we are recommending will work properly, ethically and responsibly. No person can be qualified to be a public insurance officer who has passed the test.
Winner of the Nov. 8 and Ricardo Lara. But that’s because instead, San Jose business owner Robert Howell, doesn’t know about the job and it would be an unmitigated disaster if elected.
This is advice to hold your nose because we feel we have a responsibility to provide guidance to voters when they are choosing between two bad candidates.
Californians deserve better choices to lead the 1,400-employee department responsible for managing health, auto and homeowner’s insurance rates – managing an industry that generates more than $371 billion in annual revenue for California. The insurance commissioner probably affects the lives of Californians more than any other government official except the governor.
Like we said before the primary electionLara’s words have been embarrassingly reminiscent of the disgraceful time of Chuck Quackenbush, the insurance commissioner himself. He retired in 2000 amid accusations that he tried to get money from insurance companies to finance advertising that would benefit him politically.
Since the scandal began, for nearly two decades California insurance executives have refused campaign contributions tied to the one business they control — recognizing the importance of independent oversight untainted by political money.
Until Lara came. After vowing not to take corporate money, he broke that promise in 2018 and after being elected quickly began raising more from his administration during this year’s campaign.
San Diego Union Tribune few that Lara collected $270,000 from 56 people and companies that have an insurance business. During this time, the officials of the Department of Insurance defeated the legal judges five times, each time benefiting the company that is affiliated with some of the funders. Agreement Tribune report.
On New Year’s Eve after her appointment, Lara attended a party in London with a corporate lobbyist and two months later dined in Sacramento with tourism and industry executives who had a business waiting for her, the Sacramento Bee. report. He also paid California taxpayers to rent his Sacramento home, Politico also reported.
When a consumer watchdog group sued Lara for access to communications in her office and with lobbyists representing campaign donors, her agency last year suddenly adopted a policy to delete emails after six months. But after media monitoringthe agency ended the process in January.
It’s hard to imagine someone who could be worse. Then Mr. Howell enters, who does not reveal why he is running or what the insurance policy entails. He was the most ill-prepared person for public office that we have ever met.
“What can I do as a commissioner?” He repeated our first question. He sat for a while and then said “Okay, that’s fair” as if he was looking for an answer.
At one point, he finally said he would stop home insurance companies from paying more for coverage in fire-prone areas. And how could he do that? “Good question,” he replied. “The 1,400 people who work in the office should know how to organize things. That’s what people in the sewers do. They have to do their job. “
It was surreal but not surprising coming from Howell. We interviewed him earlier when he was running for other offices. When he ran for the state Senate in 2020, he came into the interview with us unprepared. He told us at the time that he supported Donald Trump and was “proud to wear a MAGA hat.”
During the campaign, he says he’s still a “Trump Republican” but now calls himself a “Reagan Republican” because “Trump leaves people the wrong way.” Sheesh!
Howell is president and chief engineer of Exatron, a San Jose-based equipment manufacturing company with about 45 full-time employees. He managed to get into the showdown and finish second because four Democrats were on the ballot splitting their party’s votes while Howell was one of only two Republicans. He received 18.1% of the vote, edging out Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who got 18.0%.
If Levine had run, this would have been a different race – with a credible and ethical candidate in the polls. Instead, Californians are faced with a terrible choice between Lara and Howell. Try not to shake while casting your vote.