California's Out Insurance Commissioner Gets Reelection Backing

Ricardo Lara
Ricardo Lara
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Equality California is launching a $3 million independent expenditure campaign with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the California Federation of Teachers to help reelect California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara — the first and only LGBTQ+ person of color elected to statewide office in the United States.

Lara, a gay Latino, was first elected insurance commissioner in 2018 after being in the California legislature for eight years — two in the Assembly, six in the Senate. He grew up in east Los Angeles, the son of undocumented immigrants. In his 2022 bid for reelection as insurance commissioner, he is being challenged by fellow Democrat Marc Levine, an Assembly member from Marin County in Northern California. Under California’s system, the top two vote recipients in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of party.

Levine has contended Lara has not done enough to address insurance crises in California, including those caused by wildfires. He has also criticized Lara’s ties to the insurance industry; early in his term, Lara returned campaign contributions from donors connected with insurance companies. But Lara’s supporters say he has been progressive and productive.

“As Insurance Commissioner, he’s saved billions for drivers during the pandemic, prevented discrimination against people living with HIV and people taking PrEP, assisted wildfire victims and created the nation’s first-ever climate branch within the Department of Insurance,” says an Equality California press release.

“It’s unfathomable that in 2021, America has just one LGBTQ+ person of color serving in statewide office,” Tony Hoang, executive director of Equality California, said in the release. “Good thing for California, that person is Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara — and his representation as an out gay Latino son of immigrants has had a transformative impact on the lives of millions of Californians. On issues ranging from fighting discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community to standing up for consumers and wildfire victims, Ricardo Lara has been a bold, progressive champion. Equality California will do everything in our power to ensure he is reelected as insurance commissioner in 2022.”

“The nonstop attacks on sexual and reproductive health care, coupled with issues like the global pandemic and the climate crisis, have raised the stakes for consumers, women, and families across California,” said Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California Vice President Jennifer Wonnacott. “From his work in the state legislature to serving as California’s Insurance Commissioner, Ricardo Lara has been a progressive champion for the people — fighting for equality, for women’s rights, and for underserved communities — which is exactly what we need right now. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California can continue to count on Ricardo Lara to stand with us in our fight, which is why we're proud to join this effort to make sure he is reelected.”

“We represent more than 120,000 educators and classified professionals working at every level of public and private education from Head Start to the University of California,” added CFT President Jeff Freitas. “Like most Californians, our members use insurance on a range of items, from health care to driving and more. We care deeply about making certain that educators and classified professionals have an ally as insurance commissioner who will fight for them and all California consumers. Ricardo Lara has proven himself, delivering time and again, from the State Assembly and Senate to the office of California Insurance Commissioner. We are thrilled to join this endeavor to make certain that Ricardo Lara wins reelection.”

Lara has also been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect qualified out officials around the nation.

Equality California released this campaign video Wednesday: