Gay CA insurance czar Lara survives primary challenge

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022
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Gay state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara survived a primary race and will advance to the November election. Photo: Courtesy Lara campaign
Gay state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara survived a primary race and will advance to the November election. Photo: Courtesy Lara campaign

Gay California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara survived an intraparty challenge in his primary race Tuesday to advance to the general election in November where he could be running against a Republican opponent. Because several other out candidates did not fare as well in their primary races, Lara is expected to remain California's lone LGBTQ statewide leader should he win reelection.

His election four years ago marked the first time an LGBTQ person had been elected to statewide office in the Golden State. But following a rocky first term beset by ethical scandals dating back to 2019, Lara faced not only a challenge this year from several Republicans but also from Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae), who ran attack ads against Lara that painted him as unfit to remain the state's insurance czar.

Yet the power of incumbency and the strength of the Democratic vote, as Lara had secured the endorsement of the California Democratic Party, appear to have helped the Latino politician from Los Angeles County fend off Levine. Lara took first place in the primary with 37% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns Wednesday.

"I want to thank California Primary voters for sending me to the General Election by a 2:1 margin! I look forward to continuing to build on the important work we've done for consumers," Lara, a former state legislator, tweeted.

He could be facing in the fall election Republican Robert Howell, who was in second place with 17.8% of the vote as of Wednesday. As for Levine, he was in third place with 16.8% slightly ahead of the fourth place finisher, GOPer Greg Conlon, who had 16.5% of the primary vote.

In a statement released on election night, when he was in second place, Levine expressed optimism that he would advance to the general election ballot to compete head-to-head with Lara.

"We'll be watching the results closely over the coming days, and if we are fortunate to make it through to the general election, we look forward to consolidating support behind our campaign, continuing to make the case for change, and winning a victory for California consumers in the fall," stated Levine.

As for transgender nurse Veronika Fimbres, a Green Party member who also ran in the primary for insurance commissioner, she received 2% of the vote based on the unofficial returns. The San Francisco resident was the first known transgender statewide office seeker to make it onto a primary election ballot in California, as well as the first person living with HIV to do so.

Other out candidates fall short

Gay Los Angeles city controller Ron Galperin fell short in his bid to be elected the state's controller. He landed in fifth place with 10.7% of the vote.

Lesbian Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who left the Republican Party and ran as an independent to be the state's attorney general, came in fourth place in her primary contest with 7.5% of the vote. The Democratic incumbent, Rob Bonta, who was appointed to the position, landed in first place with 54.5% of the vote.

Come November, he is likely to compete against GOPer Nathan Hochman, who was in second place with 18.5% as of Wednesday. Efforts by Bonta's supporters to boost Republican lawyer Eric Early's chances in the primary appear to have fallen short, as he was in third place with 16.8% according to the unofficial returns.

After being appointed as the state's junior U.S. senator, Democrat Alex Padilla easily won his special election Tuesday to serve out the remainder of his term by capturing 54.3% of the vote. He was also the first place finisher in his primary race for a full six-year term with 53.5% of the vote and will run in November against GOPer Mark P. Meuser, who took second place with 14.3% of the primary vote.

Republican Lanhee Chen now has the best chance of any GOP candidate in several years to be elected to a statewide office. He took first place in the controller primary race with 37% of the vote.

State controller candidate Malia Cohen advanced to the November general election. Photo: Cohen campaign  

But he will face a fierce Democratic opponent in Malia Cohen, a former San Francisco supervisor and police commissioner. Now a member of the state Board of Equalization, Cohen secured second place in the controller primary race with 21.3% of the vote.

California Treasurer Fiona Ma, also a former San Francisco supervisor, appears headed to reelection in November despite accusations she improperly treated her staff by making them share hotel rooms with her. She easily took first place in her primary race with 57.6% of the vote and will face in the fall GOP challenger Jack M. Guerrero, who placed second with 21.3% of the primary vote.

Also expected to easily win reelection is Democratic state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony K. Thurmond, who took first place in his primary race with 45.7% of the vote. With three of his challengers all at roughly 11% of the vote as of Wednesday, it remains to be seen who he will be running against in November.

After decisively beating back last year's attempt to recall him, Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a relatively easy reelection bid this year. Without much of a campaign ahead of the primary race, the former San Francisco mayor and supervisor took first place in Tuesday's contest with 56.3% of the vote.

He will now face off against state Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), who landed in second place with 16.8% of the vote. Among the 26 candidates in the gubernatorial primary was independent Reinette Senum, a lesbian and former mayor of Nevada City who netted 0.6% of the vote, for a total of 21,670 votes, according to the unofficial returns Wednesday.

Democratic Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis also placed first in her primary, with 52.1% of the vote. She will face Republican Angela E. Underwood Jacobs, who was in second place with 19.9% of the primary vote, in the fall.

Democratic former state legislator Shirley Weber, appointed by Newsom as secretary of state, also was the first-place finisher in her primary contest Tuesday with 58.8% of the vote. Competing against her in November will be GOPer Rob Bernosky, who placed second with 19.5% of the primary vote. Gay Green Party member Gary Blenner finished in fifth place with 2.6% of the vote.

For District 2 of the state Board of Equalization, which includes the Bay Area and much of the California coast, Democratic former state assemblymember Sally Lieber was in first place with 51.5% of the vote. She will face off against Republican Peter Coe Verbica, who received 28.7%. Former San Francisco supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier (D) was in third with 19.8%.

Updated 7/8/2022 to note that state Senator Brian Dahle is a Republican.

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