SAN FRANCISCO — Steve Poizner, the wealthy Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate, has announced he’ll seek statewide office as an independent in 2018 — marking a high-profile defection from the state Republican Party as President Donald Trump’s approval ratings sink in California.
Poizner told Politico on Monday that as California confronts the impacts of devastating fires, mudslides and growing cybersecurity threats, he’s decided to seek the office of insurance commissioner for a second time — but this time, without a party label.
“California’s insurance commissioner needs to be fiercely independent of the insurance industry, which is why being free of partisan politics is especially important,’’ said Poizner, who held the office from 2007 to 2011. He said his experience in three arenas — the public sector with expertise in tech, as well the private and the nonprofit sectors — distinguishes him from two other major party candidates seeking the office. Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, and Peter Kuo, an East Bay Republican who has unsuccessfully run for Assembly and state Senate, have already entered the race.
Poizner is a multimillionaire tech executive who made his first fortune when his company, SnapTrack, which pioneered the GPS technology in cellphones, was sold to Qualcomm for $1 billion in stock.
In 2016, Poizner rejected Trump’s presidential candidacy and endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich, serving as his state campaign chair in California. Several weeks ago, he re-registered from Republican to “decline to state” — a growing category that now defines 1 in 5 registered voters in the state, as both major parties continue to lose ground in voting rolls. He said he has discussed the move with Kasich, who has been “very supportive” of his decision.
Still, Poizner refused to bash Trump — and denied he is trying to become a flag-bearer for a new political brand. “I don’t want to necessarily lead some new third party movement,’’ he said. “People are just sick and tired with a lot of partisan bickering and stalemates. … I just know that there is this mood out there where people are hungry for problem solvers.”
Poizner’s move makes political sense in a state where the Republican Party has withered and there is deep voter dissatisfaction with Trump, whose approval ratings are down to 30 percent in California, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released this month.
His pitch may also resonate with voters fed up with the major political parties — and with the bitter partisan infighting that dominates national politics, as evidenced by two federal government shutdowns in the past month.
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