California voters will get to decide today on whether to bring their old Republican insurance commissioner back as an independent, or make a Democratic candidate with little insurance experience their new commissioner.
Voters will also be electing insurance commissioners in Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Commissioners in all of these states could play a major role in shaping efforts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to develop new life insurance and annuity sales and marketing standards proposals, and other regulatory proposals.
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Because California is such a large market in its own right, the winner of the race there could play an especially prominent role in sales standards efforts.
Here’s a look at the four states’ insurance commissioner races.
California: Ricardo Lara, Steve Poizner
Lara is running as a Democrat.
Poizner is running as an independent.
One of the candidates will succeed Dave Jones, who is leaving office because of California’s term limits law.
Lara has had little direct involvement with the insurance industry. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Spanish from San Diego State University, and he has worked in and around the California State Legislature since 2006.
He served in the California Assembly from 2010 through 2012. Since then, he has been a member of the California Senate.
In his official candidate statement, he notes that his parents sacrificed to buy life insurance, and that he himself wrote a law that made health insurance available to 250,000 additional California children.
“I believe that a healthy, honest, and competitive insurance market is one of the most important ways to provide the security we all need,” Lara says in his candidate statement. “The job of California’s insurance commissioner is really about two things — making sure that insurance is priced fairly and that if we ever need to use it, our claim will be handled fairly.”
Poizner, who served as California’s insurance commissioner as a Republican from 2007 through 2011, also has little direct experience with the insurance industry, aside from his terms as the state’s commissioner.
Poizner earned a bachelor’s degree in electric and electronics engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978, and a master’s degree in business from Stanford University in 1980.
He was a consultant from 1980 through 1983, the founder and head of a digital mapping company from 1983 through 1995, and the founder and head of a cell phone GPS company from 1995 through 2001.
He then served as a White House fellow from 2001 through 2002, and as a high school teacher from 2002 through 2003.
Since leaving the commissioner’s post, he has worked as the general manager of a tech company, a national co-chairman of John Kasich’s Republican presidential primary bid, and the founder and head of the Alliance for Southern California Innovation, a tech industry support organization.
Poizner says in his official candidate statement that urgent insurance issues facing Californians include the ongoing premium increases in health insurance markets and the growing economic threat of cyber-crime.
Georgia: Donnie Foster, Janice Laws, Jim Beck
Foster is running as a Libertarian.
Laws is running as a Democrat.
Beck is running as a Republican.
One of the candidates will succeed Ralph Hudgens, who decided not to seek re-election.
Foster is an Army veteran, an ex-sheriff’s deputy and a truck driver. On his website, he says, “You earned it. You keep it. I mean it.” He lists only property-casualty insurance issues and general public policy issues on his website. He does not mention life, health or retirement issues there.
Laws has an associate degree in business from Shorter University. She has worked as an insurance agent selling products such as auto insurance, homeowners insurance and life insurance for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, MetLife and Nationwide. She owns J. Laws & Associates LLC, an Atlanta-based insurance and financial services agency that serves small business owners and individuals.
On her website, Law focuses mainly on car insurance premiums and health insurance premiums.
“Our seniors, veterans and other at-risk families experience fraud and predatory insurance practices every day,” Laws says of her views on health insurance. “As your insurance commissioner, I will access and investigate predatory practices of insurance companies, as well as those who seek to defraud our communities. I will protect consumers from those who break the rules, regulations, policies, procedures and/or our laws. I will work with the legislature to enact legislature that holds these corporations and entities accountable for their predatory practices and to repeal and replace laws that do not have the best interest of all Georgians as a top priority.”
Beck has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of West Georgia.
Beck was the deputy insurance commissioner at the Georgia Department of Insurance from 1995 through 1997, then again from 2008 through 2011.
He was senior director of government relations at Nationwide from 1997 through 2008, and he has been general manager of operations at the Georgia Underwriting Association since 2012.