Steve Poizner’s “Puncher’s Chance” Could Alter CA Politics

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Steve Poizner’s independent run for Insurance Commissioner can be precedent setting. Last week, on this page Joe Mathews argued that Poizner’s run as an independent was an act of folly. I disagree.

The Insurance Commissioner’s race only has four certified candidates. Two viable Democratic candidates, state senator Ricardo Lara and physician Asif Mahmood, Peace and Freedom Party candidate Nathalie Hrizi and Poizner. Note, there are no Republicans.

If party voters don’t know much about candidates in a race for a down ticket office like Insurance Commissioner, odds are they look for the party label. The two Democrats will run competitive campaigns and carve up votes from devoted Democratic voters. Republicans might skip the office when voting, but Poizner has some cards to play.

Poizner has money and a track record as Insurance Commissioner in which he did a credible job. Joe Mathews argues that voters don’t have much memories of Poizner’s turn as Insurance Commissioner, which ended in 2011. Can’t argue with that. However. Poizner has the wherewithal to remind them.

On top of that, impartial voices could well line up on Poizner’s side. He has already corralled the endorsement of the Mercury News. Piling up endorsements in these types of races can be a factor.

In Joe’s column he pointed to Dan Schnur’s unsuccessful run for Secretary of State as an independent, saying he fell to a “lesser-known” Republican Pete Peterson among others. But Peterson’s success was largely driven by the good impression he made around the state including piling up many newspaper endorsements.

There is no question if a Republican were on the June ballot that would be a problem for Poizner. But that is not the case. Certainly, if he comes in the top-two in June, which is clearly possible, he will face a big hurdle when his No Party Preference candidacy must deal with an opponent carrying the Democratic label in Democratic dominated California. You can bet either rival Democrat will remind voters Poizner was once a registered Republican.

But saying all that, Poizner has, what is referred to in the boxing game, as a “puncher’s chance.” He would be in the ring with a number of things going for him including money, endorsements and a positive track record and he could, in my view, deliver a knock-out blow.

If he can pull it off proving an independent candidate can win a statewide office, then a barrier will have fallen and the precedent setting event of an independent’s victory could change politics in the Golden State.

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