Election results for Congress made the biggest headlines last week, but Washington, D.C. wasn’t the only focus of insurance industry political operatives on Election Day, as state races across the country directly and indirectly impacted the future of the business.
In California, Republican Steve Poizner won the insurance commissioner’s post, turning back a challenge from Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, taking half the vote, against about 39% for his opponent.
In other state races, incumbent insurance commissioners kept their jobs in Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma. In Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, Democrats took the governor’s office from Republicans, which will in all likelihood lead to the appointment of new insurance regulators.
In California, Poizner rode the coattails of reelected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, while also benefiting from a surprise endorsement from Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield–primarily on the issue of campaign funding. Bustamante accepted and then returned $150,000 in insurance industry contributions after public pressure.
Meanwhile, California’s current insurance commissioner, Democrat John Garamendi, a long-time adversary of the industry, beat a Republican state senator, Tom McClintock, by about 4 percentage points in the race for lieutenant governor.
In other commissioner races:
o Oklahoma: Incumbent Democrat Kim Holland survived a nasty race to defeat state lawmaker Bill Case. Holland was the target of some sharp advertisements from out of state and out of the Case camp, questioning her ethics and qualifications for office.
o Kansas: GOP incumbent Sandy Praeger, current vice president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, bucked a Democratic trend in her state to keep the post she has held for the last 4 years. Her predecessor, former NAIC President Kathleen Sebelius, rode to an easy reelection as governor.
o Georgia: GOP Commissioner John Oxendine easily won reelection, defeating Democrat Guy Drexinger.
o Florida: Democrat Alex Sink turned back a challenge from state lawmaker Tom Lee for the recently created post of chief financial officer.
Sink and newly elected Gov. Charlie Crist have joint authority to appoint the new commissioner. There is no word on whether the current holder of that post, Kevin McCarty, will keep his job.