4 Incumbent Commissioners Returned To Office

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Voters returned incumbent insurance commissioners to office in North Carolina, North Dakota, Montana and Washington. In addition, a new commissioner was elected in Delaware.

Those results mean the only political change in membership in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners could come in Missouri and Indiana where control of the governors office, which appoints the commissioner, shifted from Democrats to Republicans and in New Hampshire, where voters replaced a Republican with a Democrat.

In North Carolina, Democrat Jim Long, a former NAIC president, handily won his sixth term with 55% of the vote. He won his post along with Democratic incumbent Gov. Mike Easley defeating former state legislator C. Robert Brawley.

Taking nearly two-thirds of the vote, Republican Jim Poolman easily won re-election in North Dakota, defeating auto glass repair shop owner Terry Barnes. Poolman suddenly quit his post as NAIC vice president this fall and took himself out of contention for the organizations presidencya post that became vacant with the resignation of Ernst Csiszar.

In his first 2 years as commissioner, Poolman made a name for himself for his efforts to craft a model suitability law pertaining to the sale of variable annuities and other investment products. When that effort failed he ultimately succeeded in obtaining passage of such a model law pertaining solely to seniors.

Poolman also was closely allied with former NAIC President Terri Vaughan in her efforts to implement a national compact to provide a single source for life products review.

In Montana, Democrat John Morrison won re-election as State Auditor Commissioner of Insurance Securities with an estimated 57% of the vote as his fellow Democrat Brian Schweitzer took the governors chair. Morrison, one of the few former trial lawyers to serve as commissioner, ran on a platform of tax credit for small businesses to provide health insurance and some reform of the credit scoring regulations. He defeated Republican State Sen. Duane Grimes.

Morrison chaired hearings on the issue of mandatory arbitration clauses that featured a wide variety of experts and took place at 2 quarterly NAIC meetings. But in the end, there was little interest among the commissioners in taking any action that would regulate the use of such clauses, which are more important in the health sector than other areas of insurance.

In Washington, Democrat Mike Kreidler won a second term with 53% of the vote defeating Republican John Adams, who owned an insurance brokerage.

In Delaware, Democrat Matthew Denn defeated Republican David Ennis with about 53% of the vote. Denn helped write a patients bill of rights while serving as legal counsel to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner from 2001 through 2003. The former incumbent commissioner, Democrat Donna Lee Williams, is retiring after serving 12 years in the post.

In Missouri and Indiana, the ouster of Democrats from the governors chair, is expected to lead to the appointment of new regulators.

A number of state judicial elections around the nation captured the interest of the insurance industry.

A race for a vacant seat on the Illinois Supreme Court attracted more than $7 million in donations, nearly twice the previous record for a judicial race.

Republican Judge Lloyd Karmeier defeated Democrat Gordon Maag. Most of Maags contributions came from the party and trial lawyers in Madison County, while Karmeiers backers looked to his election as a means of changing the judicial climate in the state that is said to favor the plaintiffs bar. The Supreme Court judgeship is key to which party controls circuit and appellate judgeships.

A Republican victory in the West Virginia Supreme Court race shifted the balance of power there to the GOP from a Democratic majority.

“West Virginia is commonly known as one of the worst judicial environments in America,” said Neil Alldredge, state relations director for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. “And since lower court decisions go right up to the Supreme Court, its makeup is more important than in other states.”

Alldredge said Republican court victories in Alabama, Ohio and Texas “will solidify the makeup of those courts in the states.”

“We had 3 Republicans running in Alabama and they all won,” Alldredge said.

In addition to reversing lower court verdicts the industry may find objectionable, GOP-leaning top courts will be less likely to reject tort reform measures as unconstitutional, Alldredge noted.

In the state legislatures, Democratic gains in Colorado, Iowa, Oregon and Minnesota will be counter-balanced by GOP gains in Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Tort reform as well as rate and form filing reform measures will most likely face scrutiny in these venues.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, November 4, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.