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California and the West

Assemblywoman to Seek Insurance Post

Politics: Democrat Diane Martinez of Monterey Park wants to oppose GOP incumbent Chuck Quackenbush.

January 28, 1998|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Democratic assemblywoman with a combative, consumer-oriented record has declared that she will run for state insurance commissioner, challenging incumbent Republican Chuck Quackenbush.

"This insurance commissioner has sold out to the insurers and people are sick of it," said Diane Martinez of Monterey Park. "That's the issue that will play."

Martinez, 45, the daughter of Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Monterey Park), has served in the Assembly for three terms, the legal limit, and has proved to be an often sharp-tongued champion of consumer views.

Quackenbush, in his first term as commissioner, has not yet formally announced his reelection bid. But a campaign aide said Tuesday that he will do so before the filing deadline Feb. 4.

The only other announced candidate is Marin County Supervisor Hal Brown, a Democrat who is a cousin of former Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.

Martinez, whom colleagues in the Legislature sometimes refer to sarcastically as "Miss Congeniality," is known for her frank remarks on issues and about other members.

But she said her independence will serve her in good stead in the insurance commissioner's race.

She is a critic of the insurance industry, but also described herself as uncommitted to the trial lawyers lobby, its frequent rival on insurance issues.

"I don't like multibillion-dollar industries making it hard for people to live in this state," she said.

Martinez filed her declaration of candidacy Friday, but made no public announcement of it and issued no comment until contacted late Monday by The Times.

"He's slick, but on consumer issues, he's my dream date on this run," Martinez said of Quackenbush. "I know I can take him out. People aren't going to fall for him this time around."

Quackenbush could not be reached for comment Tuesday. However, he has tried to portray himself in recent months as a consumer champion, asserting that he has worked to lower insurance prices with some success.

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