LOS ANGELES (AP) - Former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is trying to get his old job back Tuesday and in the process become the first independent to win statewide office in California.
The race features two Democrats also seeking to become the first of their kind: Dr. Asif Mahmood, who would be the first Muslim in statewide office, and Sen. Ricardo Lara, who would be the first gay Latino to hold such a position. Both men support universal health care, a policy Poizner opposes.
While health care has become a rallying cry of sorts for Democrats this year, it is an area where the insurance commissioner has little control.
The Department of Insurance, which enforces insurance laws, licenses and regulates companies and investigates fraud, is largely seen as a consumer protection agency.
Nevertheless, Mahmood and Lara are burnishing their health care credentials.
Mahmood, a pulmonologist from Pakistan who supports government-run health care for everyone, is using his firsthand experience dealing with health insurers to promote himself as the best person to serve Californians. He’s also calling for better mental health care and better disaster preparation.
Lara, who authored a failed bill that would have provided state-run health insurance, said that remains a top priority, though he also bills himself as an opponent of President Donald Trump - another popular position among Democrats.
Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was a Republican when he held the office and then lost a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said he’s running as an independent because the office should be free of politics.
His focus is making sure homeowners have adequate protection against wildfires and other natural disasters. He promised a crackdown on insurance fraud and wants to develop better insurance policies against cybercrime.All three have vowed not to take insurance money, though Lara had to give back money he took from the political action committee of the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.Lara, who has support of unions and the Democratic party, has spent nearly $1 million on the race, the most of the main three candidates. He still leads the other two with $325,000 in his account.Nathalie Hrizi, a Peace and Freedom Party candidate, is also running on a universal health care platform. She ran for the office in 2014, but only got 5 percent of the vote.The two with the most votes will run against each other in November to replace Dave Jones, a Democrat who served the maximum two terms and is running for attorney general.
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