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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : Statewide Races : INSURANCE COMMISSIONER

October 30, 1994

THE OFFICE

This is a position with direct impact on millions of Californians' pocketbooks. The commissioner rules on rate increases for all property, casualty and life insurers who do more than $60 billion in business per year in the state; the commissioner investigates fraud, responds to consumer complaints and wields wide authority to hold hearings and set sales rules; the officeholder can seize insurance companies deemed to be insolvent and manage them to protect policyholders.

MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATES

CHARLES W. QUACKENBUSH, Republican

* Born: April 20, 1954, at McChord Air Force Base, near Tacoma, Wash.

* Residence: Cupertino

* Current position: Member of the state Assembly

* Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Notre Dame

* Career highlights: Founded two companies in the Silicon Valley; assemblyman since 1986; has held a seat on the powerful Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

* Family: Married, three children

* Background: A self-described moderate Republican, Quackenbush is a free-market advocate who makes no secret of his close alignment with the insurance industry on a host of the issues he would face as insurance commissioner. Like most Republicans in the Legislature, he has voted consistently with the industry and, though he pledges to enforce it, he has expressed fundamental opposition to the close regulation called for in Proposition 103, approved by the electorate in 1988. He was raised in a military family. After college and a military stint of his own, Quackenbush and his wife, Chris, founded two firms in the Silicon Valley dealing in high-tech consulting and computer software and made a considerable fortune before selling them in 1989. As a lawmaker, Quackenbush has been an orthodox Republican in such areas as crime, where he sponsored a measure to allow judges discretion to try 14- and 15-year-olds as adults in murder cases, and in education, where he sponsored a measure for free choice for children to attend any public school regardless of boundaries.

*

ART TORRES, Democrat

* Born: Sept. 24, 1947, in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles

* Residence: Monterey Park

* Current position: Member of the state Senate

* Education: Bachelor's degree, UC Santa Cruz; law degree, UC Davis

* Career highlights: Legislative counsel to the United Farm Workers. Elected to Assembly in 1974, served eight years and then elected to the state Senate in 1982. A John F. Kennedy fellow and lecturer at Harvard University.

* Family: Divorced, two children

* Background: If elected, Torres would become the first Latino in modern times to win a statewide elective office. But in reaching this point, the road has not always been smooth. He was defeated in a race against Gloria Molina for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1991. Fourteen years ago, he broke with an old mentor, United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, and voted against Chavez's choice for Assembly Speaker, costing him dearly in sections of the Latino community. More recently, proposals such as his 1993 pay-at-the-pump idea for auto insurance have collapsed for lack of support. Although he has chaired prominent legislative committees, including the Senate Insurance Committee, Torres is viewed in some quarters as too quick to compromise. But Torres is credited with keeping some distance from the powerful insurance industry and the trial lawyers' lobbies, unlike most legislators. Torres is known as an effective speaker. He says he has overcome personal problems, surviving a bitter divorce and successfully swearing off alcohol after two drunk-driving convictions some years ago. Torres takes pride in his upward rise academically, from community college through the UC system, including law school, and the academic term in 1973 when he was a lecturer at Harvard.

MINOR PARTY CANDIDATES

* A. JACQUES, American Independent, 64, retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant

* TED BROWN, Libertarian, 34, insurance adjuster/investigator

* TOM CONDIT, Peace & Freedom, 57, clerical worker

The Issues

REGULATION

Torres began the campaign by sharply differentiating himself from Quackenbush, saying that he, Torres, would be the tougher regulator of the insurance industry. Later, Torres blurred the differences somewhat by appearing before a group of insurance agents where he joined Quackenbush in criticizing the present commissioner, Democrat John Garamendi, as being too onerous a regulator. But it appears that Torres would use the commissioner's authority to control insurance rates, whereas Quackenbush has repeatedly stated that the less regulation there is, the better. Market forces will control prices more efficiently, he says, and with less regulation, insurance companies will be more inclined to stay in California. Quackenbush has been raising substantial sums from insurance companies and agents for his campaign. Torres has raised comparatively little money from the industry.

INSURANCE AVAILABILITY

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