Levine positioned well for insurance commissioner primary – Marin Independent Journal

Marin is a poor base for anyone running for statewide elected office. Its population is small, the county is relatively homogenous and it has a negative reputation as the home of wealthy elites.

Barbara Boxer succeeded in going from Marin’s Board of Supervisors to the big time as a U.S. senator after serving 10 years in the House of Representatives. Boxer’s timing was perfect for her move to the top rung of American politics, but that was 40 years ago.

Hal Brown was terrific as a Marin County supervisor and was an insurance industry professional. Despite those qualifications, when he ran for state insurance commissioner his efforts fell flat.

It’s difficult for even big city Bay Area politicians to become well-known in metropolitan Los Angeles, the state’s largest media market. It’s even harder when a potential statewide candidate emerges from Marin with a population of only 262,000 out of 40 million Californians, the majority of whom are in Southern California.

When Marin-Sonoma state Assembly member and former San Rafael Council member Marc Levine announced for state insurance commissioner, most pundits considered him a long shot.

Levine picked his race and his opponent well. If California’s newspaper editorial boards are a gauge, Levine is now primed to force the incumbent, Ricardo Lara, into a top-two runoff in November’s general election.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Ricardo Lara has to go … vote Marc Levine for insurance commissioner.”

The Los Angeles Times headline was: “Marc Levine for state insurance commissioner.” Its editorial reads, “Ricardo’s first year as California’s insurance commissioner — the elected office charged with regulating the state’s $310-billiion insurance industry — was an ethical disaster.”

The Marin Independent Journal is part of the Bay Area News Group. Its headline screams, “Elect Marc Levine to end Lara’s insurance commissioner scandals: California needs consumer protection, not partying, dining and cozying up with industry lobbyists and executives.”

Not far behind, the Sacramento Bee editorializes, “California needs an insurance commissioner with ethics. This candidate (Levine) could restore trust.”

The scandal-plagued Lara is the ideal foil. Levine will likely make the runoff and turn November’s runoff into a real horse race.

In 2018, when Lara, then a Los Angeles County state senator, ran for insurance commissioner, I covered the Democrats’ state convention in San Diego. When he made his pitch for their endorsement, Lara shouted, “I’m Ricardo Lara. I’m Latino, I’m gay and I’m labor.” He knew well his audience of identity politics-loving party activists.

Now even those to whom the pitch was aimed have abandoned ship. The Bay Area Reporter, Northern California’s premier LGBTQ+ newspaper, endorsed Levine.

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