|8th Insurance Commissioner of California|
January 7, 2019
|Member of the California Senate|
from the 33rd district
December 3, 2012 - January 7, 2019
|Mimi Walters (redistricted)|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 50th district
December 6, 2010 - November 30, 2012
|Hector De La Torre|
|Born||November 5, 1974|
Commerce, California, U.S.
|Education||San Diego State University (BA)|
University of Southern California (MA)
Ricardo Lara (born November 5, 1974) is an American politician who is currently serving as the 8th Insurance Commissioner of California. Lara was elected during the 2018 election, defeating former California insurance commissioner Steve Poizner.
Lara previously served in the California State Senate from 2012 to 2019 as a Democrat, representing the 33rd Senate district. Prior to that, he served in the California State Assembly, representing the 50th Assembly district.
Born in Commerce, California, Lara is the son of a formerly undocumented factory worker and seamstress from Mexico. Lara attended Los Angeles Unified School District schools and graduated from San Diego State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and served as student body president. He is currently pursuing a master's degree from the University of Southern California. In 2013, Lara completed Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government as a David Bohnett LGBTQ Victory Institute Leadership Fellow.
A longtime Assembly staffer, Lara worked as Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Marco Antonio Firebaugh (D-South Gate) when Firebaugh served as Majority Leader. Lara later served as Fabian Nuñez's district director during Nuñez's time as Speaker. He then served as communications director for Assemblyman Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
Lara was a candidate for the Assembly in 2008, seeking the Democratic nomination in the Los Angeles-based 46th district. He faced a number of well-connected challengers, including John Pérez, the cousin of Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Following a meeting at Getty House, Villaraigosa's official residence, Pérez became the consensus candidate and the other candidates, including Lara, dropped their campaigns. Although the challengers' names remained on the ballot, Pérez won the primary comfortably and took the seat before being elected to the Speakership in late 2009.
Lara was subsequently appointed by Villaraigosa to the powerful Los Angeles Planning Commission, where he served until resigning to focus on his 2010 Assembly run in the 50th district. Running for the seat required Lara to move into the district, which at the time did not include any part of the city of Los Angeles. Because Los Angeles planning commissioners are required to be residents of the city of Los Angeles, Lara could not run for the 50th Assembly district while serving on the commission. He announced his candidacy for the seat in early 2009 and became a resident of Bell Gardens.
Lara faced three primary challengers in his 2010 Assembly bid, two of whom had held elected office in the district. With the support of the state and local Democratic parties as well as the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Lara prevailed handily. He faced a Republican opponent in the general election and won overwhelmingly.
Lara was sworn in as an assemblyman on December 6, 2010, and was appointed the chairman of the joint legislative audit committee. He also serves on the following committees: appropriations; banking and finance; higher education; and water, parks, and wildlife. He also chairs the select committee on financial empowerment.
When Bell's entire city council was fired or resigned in disgrace, it left no majority in the city council to swear in the newly elected council in March 2011. Lara authored Assembly Bill 93, which was an emergency action empowering an appointed alternate to swear in the new council. On April 7, 2011, Lara swore in the entirely new city council.
In order to prevent another Bell, Lara established the Local High Risk Audit Program with the passage of Assembly Bill 187 in 2011, allowing the California State Auditor to identify cities at high risk for waste, fraud, or mismanagement.
On October 19, 2011, Lara announced plans to run for the California Senate in the newly drawn 33rd district in 2012. The district, which has a Hispanic majority, includes many of the communities he currently represents in the Assembly as well as much of the city of Long Beach. Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), ex-wife of current senator Alan Lowenthal, had already announced her intention to run for the seat, setting off a high-profile contest between two Assembly Democrats. Lara swiftly lined up a number of endorsements, including from Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, the California Nurses Association and the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the last of which declared the race their number one target seat. An opinion poll also showed Lara favored to win the seat, giving him a 6-point lead over Lowenthal. Two weeks after Lara's entry into the race, Lowenthal dropped her bid for the Senate and announced that she would instead seek re-election to the Assembly.
Senator Lara was reelected to the Senate in 2016 with 78.6% of the vote.
Senator Lara has passed legislation for cleaner air, to expand healthcare, and to protect the civil rights of Californians. He was author of the Super Pollutant Reduction Act (Senate Bill 1383) in 2016, which created the nation's toughest law on black carbon, methane, and fluorocarbons that contribute to global warming. Senator Lara wrote Senate Bill 4, Health for All Kids, which became the basis for 2015 budget action that led to healthcare for nearly 200,000 illegal immigrant children under California's Medi-Cal program.
In the 2017 legislative session, Senator Lara introduced the Healthy California Act (Senate Bill 562) with Senator Toni Atkins to create a single-payer healthcare plan that replaces private insurance with a publicly run plan that covers all Californians, including an estimated 2.7 million uninsured and as many as one-third of Californians who are underinsured. He is also joint author with Senator Holly Mitchell of a package of bills to reform criminal justice and juvenile justice laws by requiring minors consult with an attorney on a Miranda warning, ensure children under age 12 are not subject to juvenile court and seal arrest records for those never convicted of a crime.
Senator Lara has also passed bills to create cleaning product chemical disclosure, prevent California law enforcement from participating in the creation of a registry based on religion, ethnicity or national origin, and protecting the privacy of hotel guests and bus passengers.
In the 2017-18 legislative session, Governor Brown signed 34 laws principally authored by Senator Lara into effect, the most of any Senator. These laws included protections for wildfire victims against losing their home insurance to cancellation or nonrenewal, the decriminalization of sidewalk vending, and the nation's first climate insurance law.
On March 21, 2017, Lara announced he was running for California Insurance Commissioner in 2018.
"I'm running to be California's next state insurance commissioner because I believe at my core that California needs a strong defender, and a counterpuncher, who will stand up to fight our bullying President, Donald Trump, and his increasingly reckless federal government on issues from healthcare access to economic security and more," Lara said in a statement.
On November 6, 2018 Lara narrowly led former Republican Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who ran as an Independent. Lara would build his lead substantially in the coming days, until AP called the race for Lara on November 16, 2018.
Lara, as California's insurance commissioner, is the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California's history. While serving in the state legislature, he was a member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.