Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 46 / 16 November 2017
 

Online Extra: Political Notes: GOPer challenges gay CA insurance commissioner candidate

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

Republican Peter Kuo is running for state insurance commissioner.
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Having had the field to himself for months in his bid to become California's next insurance commissioner, gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has now picked up a Republican challenger in the race.

Peter Kuo, an insurance agent from Santa Clara, formally announced his campaign for the position last Monday, October 30. According to his campaign, Kuo moved to the United States from Taiwan at 14 in 1982 and attended San Jose State University where he met his wife Vera. The couple has three children.

"When something is broken, you fix it – you don't let it get worse and worse, until it no longer works," stated Kuo in a news release sent to reporters. "Right now, the insurance industry in California is broken. It is failing to serve everyday, hardworking Californians and their families. Skyrocketing costs have left millions uninsured or underinsured. And currently, Sacramento is turning a blind eye to the situation. I refuse to let that continue, and therefore today, I am proud to announce my campaign for insurance commissioner."

The seat will be up for grabs in 2018 as the incumbent, Dave Jones, (D), is term-limited from seeking re-election next year. He is running to become the state's attorney general against Xavier Becerra, who was appointed to the position earlier this year by Governor Jerry Brown due to Kamala Harris' election to the U.S. Senate.

Lara is vying to become the first LGBT person elected to statewide office in the Golden State. As the Bay Area Reporter has previously noted, winning one of the state's elected constitutional offices is a milestone several out LGBT candidates have failed to achieve over the last 23 years.

Despite Kuo's entrance in the race, Lara is likely to be the first to break through the state's political pink ceiling. No Republican currently holds a statewide office as the party's membership has been in free fall over the last several election cycles and Democrats are expected to sweep next year's races.

The only other LGBT person running for statewide office next year is Green Party gubernatorial candidate Veronika Fimbres . Yet the transgender San Francisco resident is not expected to survive the June primary, where the top two vote-getters in the race will advance to the November election.

It is widely expected that the general election next fall will feature two of the Democratic candidates in the governor's race, which includes former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, now the state's lieutenant governor, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang, and former state superintendent of public instruction Delaine Eastin.

Kuo, who owns a Farmers Insurance agency and works as an energy business consultant, did not respond to the B.A.R.'s interview request on what his message to LGBT voters will be in the race. He did attend the brunch held last month by South Bay LGBT political group BAYMEC, which is short for the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee.

In his campaign announcement Kuo attacked Lara as a "career politician with no experience in the insurance industry" and criticized him for backing the creation of a single-payer universal healthcare system in California. (A bill Lara co-sponsored with lesbian state Senator Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego), died this year for lacking a plan to pay for such a system but is expected to be taken up next year.)

"The last thing we need in Sacramento are more career politicians and bureaucrats out-of-touch with the unique needs of this industry and its consumers," stated Kuo. "I am the only candidate in this race with the experience and knowledge base to truly and effectively champion representation for average Californians."

A spokesman for Lara did not respond to a request for comment about Kuo's entrance into the race. In an interview with the B.A.R. over the summer, Lara said his main interest in becoming the state's insurance czar is "to ensure insurance companies are kept honest."

He has continued to rack up endorsements in recent weeks, with the California Teachers Association and groups for young Democrats in Fresno and Contra Costa counties the latest to support his bid. The eight-member California Legislative LGBT Caucus, which Lara serves as vice chair of, also endorsed him in mid-October.

"Not only has he been a trailblazer in the state legislature and a fierce warrior for equality and a more inclusive society, but his candidacy is historic as he would be the first, ever, openly gay elected statewide officeholder in California history," stated gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), who chairs the LGBT caucus. "We need Ricardo's vision, his effectiveness, and his progressive ideas all across the state and we're thrilled to stand with him 100 percent."

 

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.

 






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