Garamendi, Mendoza Win California Insurance Commissioner Primary

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BestWire) – Former California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, a Democrat, will face off against Republican Gary Mendoza in a bid to reclaim his seat in this November’s general election.

Garnering 38% of the Democratic votes cast in the March 5 primary, Garamendi defeated Assemblyman Thomas M. Calderon of Los Angeles, former State Assemblyman Tom Umberg of Orange County and Bill Winslow, an attorney/insurance consultant, according to information on the California Secretary of State’s Web site.

Mendoza, who was the head of the Department of Corporations under Gov. Pete Wilson, captured 41% of the GOP votes to edge out Wes Bannister, an insurance agent and two-time past candidate for the post, and Stefan Stitch, an insurance auditor, according to the Secretary of State.

Garamendi, the state’s first elected commissioner, served from 1991-1994.

Garamendi and Mendoza will also have to fight off challenges from four third-party candidates: Steven A. Klein, a businessman, for the American Independent Party; David Ishmael Sheidlower, an underwriting systems director, for the Green Party; Dale F. Ogden, an insurance consultant/actuary, for the Libertarian party, and Raul Calderon Jr., health researcher and educator, for the Natural Law Party.

Thomas Calderon was criticized by a consumer group for being the only candidate to accept campaign contributions from insurance companies (BestWire, Jan. 23, 2002). According to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Calderon has received $1.5 million from insurers, or 57.7% of his total fund-raising of $2.6 million.

The other large fund-raisers were Umberg, who had raised $2.4 million, and Garamendi, who had raised a total of $1.4 million, although neither candidate received money from insurers.

As of Feb. 26, Thomas Calderon, Umberg and Garamendi were the only three candidates to have raised more than $250,000 for the race, the foundation said.

Political pundits in California have said they expect a Democrat to win the commissioner’s post, because voters are still angry at former Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, a Republican, who resigned almost two years ago to avoid Legislative hearings on his actions. Legislators questioned why Quackenbush ordered insurance companies to make donations to nonprofit groups instead of paying fines for handling of claims related to the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The 2002 general election will be held Nov. 5.

Consumer Watchdog
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