Mendoza Critical of Garamendi as Calif. Commissioner Race Heats Up

July 17, 2002

Gary Mendoza, Republican Nominee for Insurance Commissioner, has criticized John Garamendi’s attempt to reportedly create more political patronage positions in the Department of Insurance.

A column in the July 15 Sacramento Bee newspaper by Dan Walters reportedly indicates that Garamendi sought a provision in a budget trailer bill to have three high-level jobs in the Department of Insurance converted to political positions appointed by the Governor’s office. Current California Commissioner Harry Low reportedly sent a letter to Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Jenny Oropeza remarking that the gubernatorial appointments in his office are inappropriate and a change should be made to allow the Commissioner to fill the jobs.

“John Garamendi is only a candidate, but he’s already trying to over-politicize the Department of Insurance – just as he did before – and undermine its integrity and independence,” Mendoza said. “Garamendi simply wants to once again use the Department of Insurance as headquarters of the Garamendi for Governor campaign – this time for 2006. Garamendi’s efforts are particularly shameful after the recent scandals that have undermined confidence in the Department.

“I agree with Commissioner Low that having the Governor make such appointments is not appropriate and I urge the Legislature to reject Mr. Garamendi’s political manipulations,” concluded the GOP candidate.

Mendoza campaign consultant Kevin Spillane added, “The revelation by the Sacramento Bee is just the latest example of Garamendi’s long history of ambition and arrogance that caused the over-politicization and mismanagement of the Department during Garamendi’s disastrous previous tenure. It’s a reminder of why the consumers and taxpayers of California can’t afford a return to Garamendi’s Reign of Error in the Department of Insurance.”

Responding to the claims, Garamendi told Insurance Journal that, “Mendoza obviously knows nothing of the administrative requirements and personnel needs within the Department of Insurance. It is absolutely essential to bring in high quality people that know and understand insurance. Some will come from government, some from the department and some from the outside. I will bring in the very best people if I have the authority to do so. This is specifically for that reason to have the authority to find the best people in America and bring them to the department. I think a release like that is incredibly naive. If he (Mendoza) knew what was going on in the department, what the needs are of the insurance industry and the consumers of California, he would never put out such a stupid release.”

When asked how the campaign is going, Garamendi said that, “Things are in excellent shape. We’re campaigning every day. The public knows me, they want me back, they want somebody who can stand up for the consumers and deal with the incredible array of problems that exist within the insurance industry today.”

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