Garamendi, Mendoza Get Nod from S.F. Chronicle

February 27, 2002

In its Feb. 24 lead editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Democrat John Garamendi and Republican Gary Mendoza in the primary race for California insurance commissioner.

Headlined “Insuring integrity”, the Chronicle cited the need for “an independent, aggressive advocate for consumers”, condemning “the scandal-filled tenure” of former Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush and “his cozy links to the firms he was ostensibly regulating.”

On the Democrat side, the editorial said, both Garamendi and his primary opponent, two-term assemblyman and former Clinton aide Tom Umberg, “by welcome contrast, are making a big point of their refusal to accept industry donations.” The other major player, Los Angeles County Assemblyman Tom Calderon, “claims to be a consumer advocate, but he simply cannot be trusted” because he has “demonstrated his spinelessness against industry pressure”.

Of the three, Garamendi, who held the post from 1991 to 1995, “is clearly the most experienced candidate”, said the Chronicle. “He clearly is no friend of the industry, so his independence is not in doubt. He deserves the Democratic nomination.”

On the Republican side, though neither has received industry contributions to date, according to the Chronicle, the newspaper endorsed former Los Angeles and state official Mendoza over Wes Bannister, a 40-year agent and broker. Both leave open the question of whether they would accept industry dollars in the general election. The Chronicle expressed the hope that Mendoza would extend his no-money pledge through then.

“Garamendi and Mendoza,” the editorial concludes, “would offer California voters a worthy choice in November — and a chance to finally redeem the office of insurance commissioner.”

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