(KRON) – Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is moving on to the November general election, the Associated Press projects.
Lara won 37.1% with 48% of precincts reporting, according to preliminary election returns Wednesday at 5:17 p.m. Who he will face is unclear: Republican businessman Robert Howell is in second place with 17.5%, and State Senator Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) has 16.9%.
Lara, the son of immigrants and a former state senator from Long Beach, was first elected to the insurance commissioner seat in 2018, when he became the first gay person ever elected to statewide office in California. He won against incumbent Steve Poizner, who had just dropped his GOP party affiliation
Since his term started, however, Lara has faced a series of ethics challenges. He accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from insurance companies despite a pledge not to do so, and socialized with industry leaders as they had cases pending before his office, multiple media outlets have reported.
He faces a strong challenger in Levine, who was endorsed by California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. Levine, an assemblyman since 2012, promises to be an anti-corruption crusader. He became involved with the insurance issue since wildfires particularly impact his North Bay district, leading to insurance claims.
California’s top-two primary was first introduced in 2012 and allows for the top two vote-getters in spring’s jungle primary to move on to the general election in November, regardless of party, for statewide and federal offices, except in presidential elections.