Equality California today early endorsed a gay candidate’s 2018 bid to be California’s next insurance commissioner.
State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) officially launched his campaign in late March. Should he win the race, Lara would be the first LGBT person elected to statewide office in the Golden State.
In addition to Lara’s potential to break through an LGBT political glass ceiling in California, EQCA’s support is hardly a surprise since he serves on the board of directors of the Equality California Institute, the statewide LGBT advocacy group’s 501(c)(3) affiliated organization.
In a statement released this morning (Monday, April 17), EQCA noted the “historic” nature of Lara’s candidacy. Yet it added that was not its “primary” motivator for its early support, more than a year prior to the June 2018 primary election, where the top two candidates for state insurance commissioner, no matter their party affiliation, will advance to the November election.
“Instead, we’re enthusiastically endorsing Ricardo Lara’s campaign because he has been a fierce, loyal and dedicated leader within and on behalf of the LGBT community, working to tear down barriers and ensure equality for all,” stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur. “In addition, part of his focus as a member of the legislature was to ensure that all Californians have access to affordable, high quality healthcare, and he has fought for healthcare coverage for some of the most vulnerable members of the community. He’s a tried and true progressive and represents the best choice for California insurance commissioner.”
With the insurance commissioner responsible for overseeing insurance companies in the state, Lara has made protecting Californians’ access to health care, particularly through Covered California under the Affordable Care Act, a top concern in his campaign.
As Lara, vice chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, stated in announcing his bid last month, “If millions of Californians begin losing their health insurance because of actions taken by Donald Trump, I will be there to fight him tooth and nail at every pass.”
Also in March, Lara and lesbian state Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced the Californians for a Healthy California Act (Senate Bill 562) to create a universal health care system that would cover all 39 million Californians. Past efforts to establish such a system in the state have failed, and even with mounting public concern over GOP efforts to gut the federal Affordable Care Act, this year’s bill is sure to face strong opposition from insurance companies and others.
The issue presents Lara, who was re-elected in November to a final four-year term in the Senate, a platform not only to boost his name recognition statewide ahead of next year’s election but also to focus public attention on the often overlooked role of the insurance commissioner.
In announcing its endorsement, EQCA pointed to Lara being “a strong voice for the expansion of quality, affordable healthcare for all Californians” during his time in the state Legislature, in which he has served since winning a state Assembly seat in 2010. It noted that, in 2015, Lara won passage of his Health for All Kids Act, which expanded Medi-Cal to all California children under the age of 19 regardless of immigration status and has also advocated for insurance coverage for adult immigrants.
It remains to be seen if Lara will be challenged for the statewide position. After he announced his bid, Lara won the endorsement of former Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord who had pulled papers to run herself.
Both former Assemblyman Henry Perea (D) of Fresno, and Paul Song, a Santa Monica radiation oncologist and former leader of the California progressive group Courage Campaign, have pulled papers for the race.