* Born: Jan. 24, 1945, Camp Blanding, Fla.
* Residence: Walnut Grove.
* Current position: State insurance commissioner
* Education: Bachelor's degree, business, UC Berkeley, 1966; master's in business administration, Harvard University, 1970
* Career highlights: Assemblyman, 1975-77; state senator, 1977-91; insurance commissioner, 1991-present.
* Family: Married to Patricia Wilkinson Garamendi, associate director of the Peace Corps; children Genet, John Jr., Christina, Autumn, Elizabeth and Ashley.
John Garamendi sponsored a variety of successful measures during his 16 years in the Assembly and Senate, but most often mentions tax reform bills in 1987 and 1988 to provide tax incentives for businesses.
In the thousands of votes he cast, he acknowledges some mistakes, such as voting for inmate rights in the 1970s. Garamendi now says he would repeal such legislation.
As insurance commissioner, he has won about $900 million in auto insurance rebates out of a potential $2.5 billion as part of his effort to enforce provisions of Proposition 103, which also made the office of insurance commissioner elective. He won extra settlements for victims of the 1991 Oakland fires, froze auto insurance rates, and worked against insurance redlining.
His relationship with insurance companies has been contentious and hostile and some critics say he could have accomplished more with a less confrontational approach.
He also has been openly criticized for the takeover and disposition of failed Executive Life Insurance Co., but Garamendi says his actions protected the best interests for the investors and policyholders, as required by law.
An acknowledged expert on health care reform, Garamendi developed some of the ideas that served as the basis for the Clinton Administration plan.
The Speech: In His Own Words
As many of you know, when I decided to run for governor, I was determined to run a different kind of campaign, a campaign that takes risks, calls it like it is and challenges business as usual, a campaign based on the premise that actions do indeed speak louder than words. And most of all, a campaign where I work side by side with and listen to the people in every corner of this state.
I've learned that one of the most important factors in maintaining the strength of California families is economic security. The Garamendi Administration will commit itself to preserving and supporting California's families. That means that for starters, we must do two things.
First, we must provide universal access to health care for every Californian. No Californian should suffer pain or leave a disease untreated for a lack of money. That is simply unconscionable in this society.
Second, every Californian deserves the chance to hold a job. Every Californian deserves the chance to support himself, or herself, his or her family, by earning a decent living.
I was in Marysville in another one of my 84 jobs, this one with some hospice care providers, (when) we went into a small mobile home on the outskirts of Marysville, and there . . . lay a man who was about 57 years old, dying of lung cancer. Behind his bed he had a handwritten sign that said "No CPR." We talked to his wife and the conversation turned to health care. And she said that she had signed up for the Medicare program for those who were fully disabled and dying. She then turned to her husband halfway through that conversation and said to him, "Jim, you can't die. You can't die. Thirty-one more days and they'll pay our medical bills."
What have we come to in this great state and this leading nation when a man . . . writes behind his bed "No CPR," and (his) wife begs for 31 more days so that she does not lose everything? What have we come to? People dying of cancer shouldn't have to worry about staying alive just to get their bills paid.
Well, we're going to change what is going on in California and in America. We will have in this state and in this nation a universal health care system so that no want-to-be governor ever has to hear what I heard that wife say.
By focusing on our resources that create both short- and long-term economic growth, we can inject our economy with the shot in the arm it so desperately needs. With the savings from 24-hour health care reform alone, we can have as much as $5.5 billion available to stimulate the California economy and to assure that over the long term we will stay competitive.
In Ethiopia (in the Peace Corps), Patti and I learned that it's one thing to dream about the future and quite another to make the future happen.
I am working as hard as I can to make a better future happen for my children, for California's children. For my family, for California's families. For my community, for California's communities. To rebuild the bridge of faith between each of us and our government.
Join me in making California work again. The new California is ours for the making.