Two termed-out assemblymen are campaigning to win the top job in the California Insurance Department (CDI)–Insurance Commissioner–and the top vote-getter will regulate and investigate a $124 billion industry.

But more importantly, the California Department of Insurance affects every person and business in this state. With 1,300, employees, the CDI licenses more than 1,500 insurance companies and more than 340,000 agents and brokers.

Furthermore, the CDI has authority over how the insurance industry conducts business within California, while protecting consumers and businesses from abuses by the companies.
Notably, the next commissioner will have a chance to help set up state programs as part of President Obama’s national health care overhaul.

Dave Jones, a Harvard-educated attorney, said “I am keenly aware of the history as well as the importance of making sure we can push for greater diversity in hiring, contracting and procurement in the African American Community.”

A Democrat, Jones has carried bills to ban gender discrimination in health care pricing and improve children’s health coverage.

Mike Villines, his Republican opponent, wants to create a strong and competitive economic atmosphere in California, where consumers benefit from competition. Notably, the next commissioner will have a chance to help set up state programs as part of President Obama’s national health care overhaul.

Villines, opposed the federal health care bill and has voted against many health measures including Jones’ AB 119, which banned discrimination based on gender in health care pricing. He voted no on AB 2244, a bill to prohibit insurance companies from denying health care coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Jones voted for the bill to protect children.

During their battle to attract voters, the source of campaign funding has become a hot-debated topic.

It’s estimated that $3 million has been put into ads against Assemblyman Jones of Sacramento on the behalf of the GOP nominee.

Despite self-imposed bans, insurance-related donations have also slipped into both campaigns.
According to filings with the California Secretary of State, insurance companies contributed more than $1 million to the California Chamber of Commerce Jobs PAC last week.

Jones says “its outrageous.”
Villines, who served as Republican leader in the Assembly for two and a half years, has in turn, criticized Jones for accepting contributions from labor unions and trial lawyers.

“Mike is a fine man and good legislator,” says California House Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass. “But I support Dave Jones, because of his body of work that support consumers.

As the owner of a small public relations firm, Villines, a California State University, Fresno graduate, boasts of his business experience and leadership know-how.

Prior to his election to the State Assembly, Villines served as an aide to former Governor Pete Wilson where he worked to implement the Governor’s legislative agenda to reform ineffective environmental regulations. He also served as chief-of-staff to former State Senator Chuck Poochigian

Jones served as a Sacramento City Councilmember and worked as a Legal Aid attorney with Legal Services of Northern California. He was awarded a prestigious White House Fellowship and served in the Clinton Administration for three years as Special Assistant and Counsel to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

“One of my priorities is to push the insurance companies to invest, hire more from the African American communities so that these companies look more like the communities they serve,” says Jones.

Our Weekly made several attempts to contact Mike Villines, but he was unavailable for comment.