Lawyer who flipped Greenlining for Mercury considers run for office

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When Mercury Insurance last year failed in its second attempt to fool voters into allowing the industry to raise rates on drivers that don’t maintain continuous car insurance coverage, resulting in the failure of Prop. 33, it enlisted the unlikely support of the Greenlining Institute, the Berkeley-based social and environmental justice nonprofit that had opposed Mercury’s similar effort two years earlier.

As the Bay Guardian reported at the time, Greenlining’s decision was controversial -- both within the organization and among other consumer protection groups that opposed Mercury’s quest -- and it was a decision driven by Greenlining General Counsel Sam Kang, who took a leave to work on that losing campaign. [CLARIFICATION: Greenling Executive Director Orson Aguilar called to clarify that Kang took a paid sabbatical to work on that campaign and that he wasn't paid by Mercury or the campaign operation it supported. Frankly, that makes the situation sound even more suspect, so we're happy to clarify this point.]

Now, we learn that Kang is considering running for the Assembly to represent the East Bay’s District 15 in 2014, where incumbent Democrat Nancy Skinner is termed out. Gee, I wonder whether Kang will get support from the insurance industry.  

Kang recently announced to his Greenlining colleagues that “I was asked to explore a run,” and some wondered whether Mercury’s billionaire founder George Joseph was the one doing the asking and promising to use his wealth and connections to repay Kang for all his help.

It’s still too early to know whether Kang will run (he has a bare bones campaign website up now) and who will support him, and he hasn’t returned our calls seeking comment for this post, but we’ll update it if/when we hear back (updated below).

According to Around the Capitol, others who have expressed interest in running for the seat are EBMUD director Andy Katz, community organizer Peggy Moore, West Contra Costa Unified School District Trustee Charles Ramsey, former WCCUSD Trustee Tony Thurmond, and SBA Regional Administrator Elizabeth Echols. They, like Kang, are all registered Democrats.    

Update 3:40pm: Kang just got back to us and said that Joseph and Mercury Insurance has "zero" impact on his decision to explore a run for office, which Kang says he was asked to consider by "friends, neighbors, all the people who advocate for those who don't have a voice." Asked whether Joseph is one of those people and when they last spoke, he replied, "He asked me to check in from time to time to give my thoughts on things."

He still casts his advocacy for Prop. 33 as genuine and said of those who view it suspiciously, "It is what it is." As for whether he's make a final decision to run, Kang said, "I'm just putting one step in front of the other to see how far I go."

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