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Nader Sends Questionnaires to Candidates for Insurance Czar

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader sent out more than 70 detailed questions to all 12 Democratic and Republican candidates in the race for insurance commissioner Friday, setting a May 26 deadline for their answers. Three of the candidates quickly responded, however, with charges that Nader’s questions were biased.

Nader said he would score the candidates and make their answers, and his comparative ratings of them, public on May 29, a week before the primary election.

But Wes Bannister, a leader in the polls in the race for the Republican nomination, said he will refuse to answer the questionnaire, and two Democratic candidates, Walter Zelman and Ray Bourhis, said Nader had failed to ask questions that should have been asked. Zelman said he seemed, in the questionnaire, to be favoring another Democrat, Conway Collis.

The two leaders in the polls in the race for the Democratic nomination, Bill Press and state Sen. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), both said they would respond to the questionnaire.

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Bannister told Nader in a letter that while he “once had a very respected name . . . (as) the ultimate voice of the consumer,” he had more recently become too closely associated with special interests such as the trial lawyers.

Zelman, who on Friday received two major newspaper editorial endorsements, those of the Sacramento Bee and San Jose Mercury News, complained that the questionnaire omitted inquiry into candidates’ past records of consumer advocacy and that some questions were written in such a way that only Collis could say yes.

Nader denied Friday that he is associated with the trial lawyers, noting that he has not acceded to several requests from the candidate most of the lawyers support, Democrat Bill Press, for his endorsement. Nader said he will not formally endorse anyone in the race, but will simply tell voters who had scored highest on his questionnaire.


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