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Best’s News & Research Service - May 20, 2022 02:14 PM (EDT)

Candidates on Both Sides Seeking Georgia Insurance Commissioner Nod

ATLANTA //BestWire// - Democrats and Republicans in Georgia will have a robust set of choices when they go to the polls May 24 to select insurance commissioner nominees in the primary election.

Republican John King, the appointed commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire, is seeking his first full term. He was appointed interim commissioner in 2019 after then-Commissioner Jim Beck was charged in a multimillion-dollar fraud case. Gov. Brian Kemp removed King’s interim title in 2021 (BestWire, Dec. 6, 2021).

King has touted his personal history as a Mexican-American who has served as a police officer in the Atlanta and Doraville police departments. He also has served as a major general in the U.S. Army National Guard, leading the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and has deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his campaign website.

He pledged to restore trust in the department, eliminate corruption and advance policies that put consumers ahead of special interests.

Also on the Republican side, Patrick Witt initially targeted a run for Congress but turned toward the insurance commissioner’s seat.

Witt most recently was the deputy chief of staff and then briefly the acting chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the final months of the Trump administration. He said the state’s insurance premium tax needs to be cut, along with red tape. Witt also said he would seek to bring in more carriers to Georgia and create a 24/7 hotline for consumers.

Witt, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, also continued Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was marred by voter fraud, saying he uncovered “tens of thousands of illegally cast votes” and dozens of violations by state and county elections officials, his website said.

Ben Cowart also is on the GOP ballot. He could not be reached for comment and has no campaign web site.

Democrats will be able to choose from the 2018 commissioner nominee, an insurance professional and an elected state official.

Janice Laws Robinson, who lost the 2018 race to Beck, says on her web site that her first priority would be to cut auto insurance rates by pushing the General Assembly to “cap rate increases and stop predatory underwriting practices.”

Robinson also pledged to put forward a communications framework and establish regional offices to serve consumer needs and improve consumer education. Town halls and educational events also would be part of that strategy, according to her web site.

Raphael Baker said Georgia’s biggest insurance issue is equity in insurance rates. He said he supports removing race and gender as underwriting factors in property/casualty insurance.

Baker also is calling for reduced auto insurance rates and is advocating for expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.

A licensed agent, Baker started in the field as an agency receptionist and eventually opened his own small business. He now works in recruiting, hiring and training future insurance professionals, a career span that he said makes him the most well-rounded candidate.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson emphasizes his “Fair & Honest Licensure Plan,” which would require carriers to open their books to the department when renewing licenses to ensure fair rates, even claims handling and non-discriminatory coverage, according to his website.

Wilson also wants to expand Medicaid, create a one-stop shop for consumers to compare insurance products, prohibit discrimination in rates based on where an individual lives or their race and make the insurance department more diverse, his website said.

Wilson also would be Georgia’s first openly gay statewide officer if elected.

(By Timothy Darragh, associate editor, BestWeek:

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