By Hannah Wiley and Andrew Sheeler, SACRAMENTO BEE – CAPITOL ALERT

September 21, 2021

In his recent campaign ad, Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Marin County, says that he’s taken on oil companies, the National Rifle Association and California’s big utilities. Now, he’s taking on fellow Democrat Ricardo Lara in a bid to become California’s next insurance commissioner. 

Levine announced his candidacy Monday.

“Our state deserves an insurance commissioner who will stand up to corporate special interests on behalf of everyday Californians and consumers,” Levine said in a statement. “The issues facing the next commissioner have never been more critical: protecting California during a time of worsening climate change and increasingly frequent wildfires and floods, ensuring access to high quality, affordable healthcare for all, and defending consumers from corporate fraud and abuse.”

Levine went on to say in a statement that “there are too many distractions, too many conflicts, too many opportunities missed” under Lara’s tenure as commissioner. 

“I think new leadership is essential,” Levine said. 

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Levine said he had “never dreamed” of running for the position until he learned in recent years what a problem the market presented to home and business owners in wildfire country.

Levine said too many of his constituents, along with countless others in California, have to deal with non-renewals and skyrocketing rates that make insurance an unaffordable but necessary commodity.

“We need someone who can hold insurance companies accountable for a change and strengthen oversight of the industry and consumer protections,” Levine said. “We have an insurance market that’s dysfunctional, and it’s been dysfunctional for years…It’s harder and harder for home owners and business owners to get the insurance they need.”

Levine also said he’d provide the kind of “bold, strident leadership” that the current administration is lacking in Insurance Commissioner Lara.

Lara faced a series of tough headlines in 2019 after the San Diego Union-Tribunebroke the story that the commissioner had accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from industry executives and their wives. On the campaign trail, Lara had promised not to accept such donations. He later apologized for the mistake and pledged a more transparent department.

Levine said he wouldn’t accept industry cash, and blamed Lara’s actions for a lack of industry oversight.

“We can’t rely on someone when he does something, when he acts, he is doing it on behalf of big money and special interests,” Levine said. “I will put an end to the current scandals and usher in a new era of transparency.”

As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, Levine added that he is not running with the support of Consumer Watchdog, an organization that’s gone to battle with Lara over the donations and his policies.

Lara first was elected commissioner in 2018; previously he had served as a state senator. His election was a historic milestone — Lara is the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California history. Lara defeated independent Steve Poizner with nearly 53% of the vote, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Lara has a plethora of high-profile endorsements for his reelection, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Govs. Jerry Brown and Gray Davis, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Treasurer Fiona Ma, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

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