Experience needed for insurance job

Steve Poizner, speaks with Republican voters at a phone bank at the Dunnigan Prudential office in Sacramento's Greenhaven neighborhood on Thursday, June 3, 2010.
Steve Poizner, speaks with Republican voters at a phone bank at the Dunnigan Prudential office in Sacramento's Greenhaven neighborhood on Thursday, June 3, 2010.

We know California considers itself at war, at least rhetorically, with the Trump administration. But not every elected statewide official needs to be in the bunker.

That’s one reason we’re endorsing Steve Poizner for California insurance commissioner. In his statements, on his website and in conversations with reporters, he appears more focused on Californians than on our famously antagonistic president.

He talks more about things like forest fires, flooding and consumer protections. Those are the things we want an insurance commissioner to concentrate on – not the latest Trumpian outrage.

That’s not to say Trump’s worst impulses can be ignored. Trump has tried his best to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, mainly because it’s often known as Obamacare – and Trump despises anything to do with his White House predecessor. We need a California insurance commissioner who will insist that health insurance remains affordable, that insurers won’t walk away from promises for full coverage and that those who suffer from disasters aren’t victimized all over again by the fine print. It’s also important to have someone in office who understands that insurance is a business, and that if insurers can’t make a profit they won’t operate in our state. It’s a balance.

Providing that balance is what Poizner was known for during his first term as insurance commissioner, 2007-11. He stood up to big insurance companies that tried to gouge policyholders while making sure the industry made enough to cover claims, make a profit and remain in the market.

The top two vote-getters advance to November’s ballot. Poizner is the candidate with the most well-conceived plans for dealing with shrinking insurance markets, specific consumer protections and ways to deal with the costs of disasters driven by drought, deluge, cyber breaches, wildfires, fraud and the crises provoked by Trump’s continued attacks on the ACA.

If Poizner has a problem, it’s that he’s not a Democrat. In California, that makes it tough to win a statewide election. He’s not a Republican, either, no longer stating a party preference – though he ran for governor as a Republican and worked on the presidential campaign of Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

That 2010 run for governor is especially problematic. Poizner tried to position himself to the right of Meg Whitman, the eventual nominee. Trying to win the votes of those who live in fear of immigrants, he promised to keep their children out of our schools and their sick away from medical care. He deserved to lose and did, overwhelmingly.

Now, Poizner says he regrets such statements; claiming they were the product of bad campaign advice.

“I would never, ever again be a politician with a divisive tone,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. Because his 2010 campaign was so at odds with his personality, we feel it is safe to endorse Poizner in 2018.

For those who can’t get past that history, there is Asif Mahmood – our second choice.

A Muslim, he cannot tolerate the immigrant bashing he hears from the party of Donald Trump. He has nowhere near the money or the endorsements of Poizner or the leading Democratic candidate, Sen. Ricardo Lara, but Mahmood has some excellent ideas. The Pakistani-born pulminologist wants to see “healthcare for all, not healthcare for most.” He wants better funding for mental health services and believes technology can be better integrated into healthcare statewide. He wants to see better financial preparations for disaster – as do we.

Poizner has proved he can be a top-notch insurance commissioner. He has a chance to prove he can be a commissioner for all Californians – consumers, insurers, immigrants, the impoverished and the native-born.