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Best’s News & Research Service - March 01, 2024 11:28 AM (EST)

North Carolina Commissioner Races Competitive on Both Sides

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OLDWICK, N.J. //BestWire// - One of the more competitive election campaigns for an insurance commissioner's seat is playing out over the next few days in North Carolina.

Mike Causey

Two Republicans are challenging incumbent Mike Causey and two Democrats also square off against each other in the North Carolina Primary election March 5.

Insurance commissioner is normally not a position of great newsworthiness, but under Causey, it's been in the news in North Carolina either due to his actions or because of events involving the Department of Insurance.

Most recently, Causey stepped into a heated dispute between the North Carolina Rate Bureau, representing property/casualty insurers, and policyholders outraged at the bureau's request for an average statewide rate hike of 42.2% (BestWire, Feb. 6, 2024).

Causey said he was "shocked" by the filing and said he had not seen evidence that the "excessive" and "unfairly discriminatory" rate increases were justified and scheduled a hearing as required.

Regardless of the outcome of the primary vote, Causey will be back in the news in May, when insurance mogul Greg Lindberg is retried on charges that he tried to bribe Causey in return for lighter regulation of Lindberg's companies. Lindberg had served two years of a seven-year sentence when when a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Lindberg and a colleague, John Gray, were not given a fair trial and said they must be tried again (BestWire, June 30, 2022).

Causey also has been in the headlines over his hiring of a friend to serve as his driver. The Department of Insurance declined to discuss the matter on the record.

And last year, Causey got in hot water when he had to rehire officials he had fired after the legislature stripped the duties of fire marshal from the commissioner’s position.

Causey tries to keep the focus on the actions of the department.

According to his campaign website, Causey worked with the state legislature to double the number of law enforcement insurance fraud investigators in the department, has reduced red tape and served as a champion of consumers. He has fought against mandates on health insurance and supports association health plans as a way to provide an affordable health insurance product, it said. 

Causey first won the insurance commissioner's seat in 2016 by a thin majority and expanded on it with a rematch against former commissioner Wayne Goodwin in 2020 (BestWire, Nov. 4, 2020).

Facing Causey in the primary will be lawyer Andrew Marcus and former House member and insurance agent C. Robert Brawley.

Marcus, who worked in the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation before going to work handling all types of insurance issues in a private law firm, said he supports having the department hold hearings on proposed rate hikes rather than negotiating with the rate bureau (BestWire, Feb. 13, 2024).

He also said he would work to increase the number of insurers in the state to promote competition and pledged to crack down on companies whose environmental, social and governance policies impact rates.

Brawley, the former lawmaker, said on his website he would advocate for consumers tirelessly; promote Industry Integrity; support innovation and engage the community.

"Our vision is simple yet profound: to ensure that every North Carolinian has access to affordable, high-quality insurance coverage," it said.

Attempts to obtain further comment from Brawley's campaign were unsuccessful.

David Wheeler and state Sen. Natasha Marcus will duel for the Democratic nomination.

Wheeler, a businessman, has a raft of plans to lower insurance rates, restore staffing at the department, create a company rating scale for consumers to access and support more insurance jobs statewide (BestWire, Dec. 14, 2023).

Wheeler said he would fight rate increases, which he said have happened too frequently under Causey. He also pledged to work with the North Carolina economic development teams to ensure insurance is a focus for investments, incentives and attracting new businesses.

“Insurance agents and agencies are sources of well-paying jobs and I will help them expand through grants and loans,” he said. “I would also like to work with existing insurance tech hubs to expand their capabilities to all of North Carolina and create several new insurance tech companies that can provide high-paying, long-term jobs for our people.”

Natasha Marcus, no relation to the Republican candidate Andrew Marcus, is running against corruption, corporate greed and bad government.

Marcus called out Causey as an industry “insider,” whose term has been marked by scandal, unprecedented rate hikes and poor judgment (BestWire, Dec. 11, 2024).

She also criticized the settling of rate bureau cases outside public view, saying on her website it's a "complete lack of transparency." She also backs more public hearings when companies propose rate hikes.

Marcus, who served on the state Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee and is being redistricted out of her seat, said the job of insurance commissioner should be held by someone who is on the side of the people.

“In the state Senate, I’ve been a consistent champion for people over corporations, for individual freedoms over ideology, and for smart investments in our state’s future,” she said.

(By Timothy Darragh, senior associate editor, BestWire:

Insurance Commissioners North Carolina Elections 2010

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