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Ricardo Lara Advances in California Insurance Commissioner Race

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Ricardo Lara, a middle-aged Latino man with black hair shaved around the sides and long and slicked back on top, speaks into a microphone he holds in his left hand, and points at the overcast sky with his right hand. He wears a dark suit coat and a white collared shirt unbuttoned at the throat with my tie. Behind him is a blurred crowd of people, one wearing a neon orange safety vest with yellow reflective tape, sunglasses, and a sunhat. Another holds a sign that reads in part "Fight Back!" in yellow letters.
Then-Sen. Ricardo Lara at a rally in Wilmington on Oct. 3, 2018. (Brittany Murray/Digital First Media/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)

Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is headed for the November election with 37.7% of the vote.

Lara's opponent in November is up in the air: Fellow Democrat Marc Levine, a Marin County assemblymember, and Republican Robert Howell are within a few thousand votes.

Lara overcame a trail of scandals and ethical lapses since getting elected in 2018 to finish first. His fundraising is currently being investigated by the Fair Political Practices Commission and could prove a target-rich environment for his opponent.

Lara, who narrowly defeated former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner four years ago to become the first openly gay candidate to win a statewide election, was seen as vulnerable given the serious questions about his taking money from the insurance industry he regulates after promising not to and questionable judgment in general. But shoring up Lara were endorsements from the California Democratic Party, the Latino Caucus in the Legislature, Gov. Gavin Newsom and many other top elected officials in the state as well as the financial backing of organized labor.

Although the insurance commissioner’s position is not typically a marquee race, it is an important position, regulating an industry that touches the lives of any Californian who has or wants to get health insurance or coverage for their home and vehicle. It’s particularly consequential at a time when wildfire risks have made insurers wary of the state marketplace.

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