Though the election continues to be months away, the race for Georgia insurance coverage commissioner already is a marketing campaign of firsts — and a few sturdy rhetoric geared toward insurance coverage firms and regulators.
Janice Legal guidelines Robinson, an insurance coverage dealer who in 2018 got here inside a number of share factors of being elected the state’s first black and first girl commissioner, now faces a Democratic state consultant, Matthew Wilson, a trial legal professional recognized for suing insurers. He can be the primary brazenly homosexual commissioner.
The winner of that Might 24 Democratic main will seemingly sq. off towards present Insurance coverage Commissioner John King, who calls himself the state’s first Hispanic statewide official.
The election guarantees to be the most recent upheaval in what has been a tumultuous decade on the Georgia Division of Insurance coverage.
King is in workplace in the present day as a result of the elected commissioner was pressured out of workplace in 2019, just some months after he was sworn in. Jim Beck was convicted of fraud and cash laundering after diverting virtually $3 million from a owners insurer of final resort that he had managed. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp then appointed King, a former Georgia police officer, to the submit in early 2019.
Earlier than Beck, Insurance coverage Commissioner Ralph Hudgens was accused of shedding a whole bunch of employees unnecessarily and selling a hands-off regulatory surroundings that noticed auto insurance coverage charges enhance sharply, in keeping with information reviews.
Earlier than Hudgens, John Oxendine left workplace in 2010 after three phrases. He’s the topic of a unbroken ethics investigation into the alleged use of marketing campaign funds for private use.
This 12 months, all three candidates have talked extensively about the necessity to restore integrity to the insurance coverage commissioner’s workplace.
“For the previous 25 years, we’ve had Republican commissioners purchased and paid for by the businesses the workplace is meant to manage,” Wilson mentioned in solutions to a questionnaire by Ballotpedia. “The final elected commissioner was convicted of fraud and cash laundering; his predecessor’s mismanagement pressured a whole bunch of workers furloughs and layoffs; and the one earlier than him continues to be beneath investigation for marketing campaign finance corruption.”
He added: “I’ll return the workplace to its meant position: that of a client advocate …”
Wilson is a private harm legal professional in Atlanta recognized for battling insurers in claims disputes. His strident feedback could play nicely with some voters however in all probability not with the insurance coverage trade.
“For too lengthy, our commissioners have been extra centered on the revenue margins of the massive insurance coverage firms than the wallets of Georgia customers,” Wilson mentioned in his Ballotpedia solutions. “They’ve rubber-stamped premium will increase, modified the regulation to make it simpler to lift premiums, and refused to make use of the investigative and regulatory energy of the workplace to carry insurance coverage firms accountable.”
Plenty of Georgia trial attorneys have mentioned their cash is on Wilson. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a nationwide group, additionally has formally endorsed the lawmaker. But it surely’s unclear if Georgia insurance coverage pursuits assist King or Robinson. Insurance coverage teams couldn’t be reached for remark this week.
Robinson, additionally of Atlanta, has spent most of her profession within the insurance coverage enterprise, a part of it with State Farm, Nationwide and MetLife. Since 2014, she has managed her personal brokerage and insurance coverage company.
However she, too, has referred to as for consumer-friendly change on the Division of Insurance coverage and has pledged to repair “what’s damaged within the insurance coverage trade,” in keeping with information reviews and her web sites.
“Georgians nonetheless don’t have an insurance coverage commissioner elected by the those who has stood the take a look at of public belief,” Robinson mentioned on her marketing campaign web site. “Georgia continues to be a hub for technological advances and improvements that when utilized to the world of insurance coverage and fireplace security, I imagine could make an unprecedented distinction within the high quality of life for all us Georgians.”
She didn’t go into element on the technological adjustments however mentioned that she would implement a statewide “engagement platform” that may enable individuals to simply report fraud and abuse and to share concepts on insurance coverage practices.
If elected, Robinson, like King, can be one of many first foreign-born commissioners. She is a local of Jamaica and immigrated to the US as a young person. King is a local of Mexico.
In 2018, Robinson, who then glided by her maiden identify of Janice Legal guidelines, handily received the Democratic main and took 47% of the vote within the common election, to Beck’s 51%. Beck later was accused of utilizing the funds siphoned from the residual insurer to finance his marketing campaign.
Robinson advised a Georgia newspaper this week that campaigns are laborious work however she hopes her second try can be profitable.
King additionally has vowed to proceed altering the tradition on the insurance coverage division. His perspective is exclusive: He has no insurance coverage enterprise expertise, however was police chief in Doraville, Georgia, and labored for a few years with the Atlanta Police Division.
“I don’t come from the Insurance coverage background,” King mentioned in December when he was formally sworn in to the workplace. “It allowed me to do a very vital have a look at each perform of our company, to actually see, is it actually wanted, does it add worth to Georgia customers or do we have to eliminate it.”
King mentioned it hasn’t been simple reforming the company after Beck was pressured out. “It was powerful. We let lots of people go. They’d no enterprise working for Georgians,” mentioned King, in keeping with an area information report on the time.
King didn’t element who was laid off or different adjustments that have been made. His workplace has mentioned that beneath his management, the division has been proactive in investigating insurance coverage fraud across the state. Shortly after he took workplace, King made headlines when he issued a cease-and-desist order towards a Nevada direct-pay firm. He mentioned the agency was trying to hoodwink medical workplaces into making the corporate their unique third-party administrator.
The occasion main for the insurance coverage commissioner race is Might 24. The final election is about for Nov. 8.