Gary Anderson, a political consultant, unseated George Dale, who has been Mississippi’s insurance commissioner for 32 years, in the state’s Democratic primary.
Anderson won 51% of the vote and Dale won 49% of the vote.
Anderson ran unsuccessfully for Mississippi state treasurer in 2003. Before that, he served as Mississippi’s chief fiscal officer from 2000 to 2003. He also has been a banker.
Dale took office on Jan. 1, 1976, and is scheduled to stay in office until January 2008.
Dale says he believes that he is the longest-serving elected Mississippi official and also the longest-serving insurance commissioner.
Anderson will face off in November against state Sen. Michael Chaney, R-Vicksburg, Miss., who won the Republican primary.
Dale says he will not run as an independent candidate because “the people have spoken.”
“Katrina did hurt me,” Dale says.
But “the interesting thing is that we didn’t get killed on the Gulf Coast” despite all of the unfavorable publicity, Dale says.
Dale received 40% of the Gulf Coast vote, down from the usual share of about 60%.
Since Katrina, insurers have paid $8.2 billion on Mississippi coastal claims and $11.9 billion on all Mississippi claims, Dale reports.
Dale says television campaign ads incorrectly indicated that he had been indicted for bribery.
Anderson took a pledge not to accept campaign money from insurers mainly because he could not get company contributions, Dale says.
Dale says he himself probably received more than $200,000 in support from the insurance industry including contributions from individual agents who were exercising their constitutional right to make campaign donations.
Anderson says he wants insurers to do business in Mississippi and is not anti-company.
The pledge not to take money from insurers is a matter of “good business and not cozy relations,” Anderson says. “It is business, not just nodding and winking and all of that.”
Although Katrina may have hurt insurers in Mississippi, “Katrina is not to blame for the rise in premiums,” Anderson says, arguing that rates were high before Katrina.
“Katrina did expose the weaknesses in depending on the department of insurance to regulate the industry in our state,” Anderson says.
He says everything in his campaign ads was “100% factual.”
Dick Scruggs, a lawyer who has organized litigation against insurers on behalf of Katrina victims, has contributed $250,000 to Mississippians for Fair Elections, a group that has campaigned against Dale.
Scruggs “did not give my campaign a dime,” Anderson says.
The insurance industry has funded efforts to stop citizen lawsuits, and Dale outspent Anderson in the primary by a ratio of 3 to 1, Anderson says.