Incumbent Democrat Dave Jones held a strong lead in Tuesday's primary election voting for state insurance commissioner, but he still faces a rematch in November against Republican challenger Ted Gaines.
Jones, 52, a Sacramento attorney, and Gaines, 56, an insurance broker and state senator from Rocklin, advance to the general election under rules approved by voters for so-called top-two primary voting.
Third-place finisher Nathalie Hrizi, 33, a San Francisco schoolteacher from the Peace and Freedom Party, is now out of the race.
Both Jones and Gaines tout their credentials as consumer advocates. However, their approaches are quite different.
Jones enthusiastically wields his authority to regulate automobile, homeowner and other types of property and casualty insurance. He's also pushing for passage of a ballot measure in November that would extend that type of regulatory power to health insurance products.
Gaines says that as commissioner he would ease back on strong regulation in hopes of injecting more competition into the insurance market. He wants to reduce government involvement in health insurance.
The elected commissioner runs one of the state government's largest bureaucracies. With 1,300 people, the Department of Insurance licenses, regulates and examines the financial strength of insurance companies; deals with public complaints and questions about the industry; and enforces state insurance laws and regulations.
Both candidates ran relatively low-key primary campaigns and appear to be saving resources for the general election battle. As of May 14, Jones reported receiving $1.6 million in campaign contributions, while Gaines took in just $94,000, according to Maplight.org, an online tracking service.
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