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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS: THE TV CAMPAIGN

<i> Elements of the ads, with an analysis by Times staff writer Kenneth Reich</i>

The race: Insurance Commissioner. Whose ads? Democratic candidates Conway Collis and Bill Press.

Collis has a 30-second commercial and Press three 10-second commercials. Each candidate is trying to get across the same point: That he is the candidate that the insurance companies fear the most.

Collis’ ad will start airing today in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The buy in the first week is $35,000, according to the Collis campaign, but may be supplemented later. The Press ads begin Saturday in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The buy for 10 days, according to that campaign, is $150,000 and may be supplemented and extended to two weeks.

Elements of the ads, with an analysis by Times staff writer Kenneth Reich:

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Ad: The Collis ad features Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield, who is backing Collis. Rosenfield declares: “There’s only one thing the insurance companies fear as much as Proposition 103. An insurance commissioner who’ll make them obey it. Conway Collis is the candidate they’re most afraid of, because Conway Collis is the only one willing to jail ‘em. Kick ‘em out of the state. Even create nonprofit auto insurance.”

Analysis: Collis has, in campaign statements, advocated jailing insurance company executives who fail to comply with the state’s insurance law and has supported a proposed initiative that would kick the companies out of the state and create a state-run auto insurance company unless the companies implement Proposition 103. The initiative, however, has been put off to 1992 at the earliest.

Whether the companies are “most afraid of” Collis is a subjective argument. Many insurers have expressed opposition to and concern about Collis, but no one has publicly said he or she is “afraid” of him.

Ads: Two of the three brief Press ads portray Press as “an insurance commissioner the insurance companies will fear the most,” and the other says he is “the man the insurance companies will fear the most.” One says he is the only candidate for commissioner endorsed by the Democratic Party; a second says: “He fought the developers to protect California’s coastline,” and a third says: “He fought big oil to stop offshore drilling.”

Analysis: It is true that Press is the only candidate officially endorsed by the California Democratic Party. And as director of the state Office of Planning and Research in the Administration of Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Press was active in the fight against offshore oil drilling, and he was press secretary of the initiative campaign that established the California Coastal Commission in order to rein in coastal development.

It’s an open question as to who the insurance companies fear the most. Many insurers discussing the Press campaign have expressed the view that he is the candidate of the California Trial Lawyers Assn., although it has not formally endorsed him. The insurers regard the trial lawyers as their principal rivals on insurance issues. Many insurers have accordingly expressed concern about Press, but no one has publicly said he or she is afraid of him. Although he has taken trial lawyer contributions, Press recently said that to secure lower insurance rates, he would fight the trial

lawyers, too.


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