<i> Elements of the ad, with an analysis by Times political writer Cathleen Decker</i>

The race: Governor. Whose ad?: Democratic candidate John K. Van de Kamp.

The attorney general Wednesday launched a 30-second ad using consumer advocate Ralph Nader to criticize Van de Kamp’s primary opponent, former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein. The commercial, made up of snippets of Nader’s Tuesday press conference in Washington, is Van de Kamp’s attempt to remind voters--particularly the party’s liberal voters--that he has been generally more liberal than Feinstein. In picking the insurance issue to make the point, Van de Kamp is also seeking to capitalize on an emotional issue for Californians.

Elements of the ad, with an analysis by Times political writer Cathleen Decker:

Ad: (Nader speaking) “Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp. . . . He’s been very, very critical of insurance industry excesses and has defended insurance consumer rights.”


Analysis: Van de Kamp did, just hours after the voters passed Nader-backed Proposition 103 in 1988, vow to vigorously defend the initiative on behalf of the state’s voters. The pledge came despite Van de Kamp’s earlier support of an alternative measure, Proposition 100, which was backed by the state’s trial lawyers.

Interestingly, although Nader expressed support of Van de Kamp, he once labeled consumer activist Walter Zelman as an “impostor” on insurance reform issues because of Zelman’s support of Proposition 100. Zelman now is running for the Democratic nomination for state insurance commissioner.

Ad: “Dianne Feinstein supported Proposition 104, which was the No. 1 priority of the insurance industry.”

Analysis: Feinstein did support Proposition 104, and repeatedly has said that she did so because it proposed no-fault insurance, which she believed to be the best alternative for Californians. She also notes that the court battles arising out of the passage of Nader-backed Proposition 103 have given the insurance industry gains it previously did not have, such as a guaranteed profit and the ability to leave the state.

Ad: “If Feinstein and Pete Wilson are elected, you might as well send a check to Aetna and State Farm. . . . Because she really is a Republican in Democratic clothing.”

Analysis: Clearly, that is Nader’s personal belief.