NU Online News Service, March 6, 12:34 a.m. –Democrat John Garamendi, California’s first elected insurance commissioner, was picked yesterday by Democratic primary voters to run for his old job yesterday.

Republicans selected Gary Mendoza, a former state commissioner of corporations.

Garamendi, who served as deputy interior secretary under President Clinton, made it a point in his primary campaign to say, “I don’t accept insurance company contributions.”

Mendoza ran pledging to “fight for California consumers, not special interests,” and cited his actions as corporations commissioner in “strengthening patients rights dealing with HMOs.”

In the Democratic primary election, with 99.8% of the vote counted, the totals were: John Garamendi, 38.5%; Tom Umberg, 28.1%; Tom Calderon, 23.1%; and Bill Winslow, 10.3%.

In the Republican primary election, with 99.8% of the vote counted, the totals were: Gary Mendoza, 41.7%; Stefan Watchdog Stitch, 36.4%; and insurance agent Wes Bannister, 21.9%.

Amongst the Democrats, Calderon, who chairs the California Assembly Insurance Committee, had the endorsement of some insurance groups.

Political insiders generally give Democrats the edge in the commissioner’s contest, citing the fallout from the resignation under a cloud by Republican Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush.

Mendoza’s win came despite the defeat in the gubernatorial primary of Richard Riordan. Mendoza served from 1996 to 1997 as Riordan’s deputy mayor while Riordan was mayor of Los Angeles.