State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, held a slim lead early Wednesday in his bid for state insurance commissioner, which could set up a scramble among local politicos for his seat in the State Legislature.

Lara held a 50.8 percent lead over Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner, who had 49.2 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Secretary of State. About 100,000 votes separates the two candidates.

Either candidate will break ground for a California statewide office. Poizner, a former insurance commissioner, would be the first independent to win such an election and Lara would be the first openly gay statewide officeholder.

The Department of Insurance enforces insurance laws, licenses and regulates companies and investigates fraud.

Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur who lost a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010, ran as an independent because he said the office should be free of politics.

Lara, who authored a failed bill that would have provided state-run health insurance, said that remains a top priority.

Poizner has said he would focus on making sure homeowners have adequate protection against wildfires and other natural disasters.

Both have promised not to take insurance money, though Lara had to give back money he took from the political action committee of the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.

State Senator Ricardo Lara Announces Bid for the State Insurance Commissioner’s Seat in 2018