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Possibly setting up a clash over health insurance regulation, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, announced he will run for California Insurance Commissioner in 2014.

Gaines, who terms out of office in 2020, said in a press release announcing his run that the California Department of Insurance has become an unwieldy bureaucracy. He also pledged to crack down on lawsuit abuse, saying current California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is "far too cozy with trial lawyers."

"When the Insurance Commissioner pushes insurers out of California just to score political points, the result is less competition and ultimately fewer choices and higher rates for all our citizens," Gaines said. "More competition means more choices and better rates for consumers."

That offers a marked contrast with Jones, who has made a call for the power to regulate health insurance rates -- an even more relevant topic given the launch this week of California's new health insurance exchange -- a centerpiece of his tenure.

The measure will go before voters in November 2014, having fallen short of the signature threshold needed to get on the 2012 ballot.

As of July, Jones had around $919,000 in his 2014 re-election war chest, according to the California Secretary of State's office.

Currently, Gaines faces no other obstacles: former Assemblyman Mike Villines, who secured the Republican insurance commissioner nomination in 2010 but fell to Jones despite heavy support from the insurance industry, had declared his intent to run in 2014 but terminated his campaign account back in 2011.

PHOTO: Senator Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.



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