Election Day is less than six weeks away, and a lot of attention is being paid (rightfully so) to the federal midterm and gubernatorial elections. But if you’re in the insurance industry, odds are you’re eyeing the gubernatorial elections through the lens of state insurance departments. Most insurance commissioners are appointed by the governor (only eight states appoint their insurance regulator through another official).
But election night will be especially pivotal in the states that have elected insurance commissioners. Ten states hold separate elections for their commissioners, with four general elections on November 6, 2018.
Which Commissioners Are Elected?
Commissioners (incumbent’s party affiliation in parentheses) in California (D), Delaware (D), Georgia (R), Kansas (R), Louisiana (R), Mississippi (R), Montana (R), North Carolina (R), North Dakota (R), Oklahoma (R) and Washington (D) are elected to the department every four years. In many of these states, the commissioners hold additional offices. For instance, in Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina, the regulators also serve as the state fire marshal. In Kansas and Montana, they double as the securities commissioner.
Who’s Up in 2018?
Current Commissioner Dave Jones (D) is term-limited and unable to seek re-election for a third term. Former California insurance commissioner Steve Poizner (I) is up against state Senator Ricardo Lara (D). California has a nonpartisan, blanket primary — everyone running for a particular seat appears on the ballot, and the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, advance to the general election. That said, Steve Poizner previously held this seat as a Republican from 2007-2011; his choice to run as an independent shows the strength of the Democratic leanings in the California political climate.
Ralph Hudgens (R) decided early on that he would not run for a third term. His longtime aid in the Commissioner’s office, Jim Beck (R), won the primary in May and will face Janice Laws (D), current insurance agent, in the general election. This race has garnered a lot of attention, as has the state’s governor race up the ticket.
Commissioner Ken Selzer (R) made a run for Governor but was defeated in the primary, leaving his seat atop the insurance department wide open. Vicki Schmidt (R) is running against Nathaniel McLaughlin (D) in a race that appears to be focused on health care affordability. Schmidt is a state legislator and pharmacist, and McLaughlin is the former regional manager of Sodexo Healthcare Services.
Like California’s Jones, Commissioner John Doak (R) cannot run for another term due to term limits. Glen Mulready (R), a state legislator with decades of insurance experience, faces off with Kimberly Fobbs (D), former manager at MetLife. Under Commissioner Doak, and the strong senior staff he assembled, the Oklahoma department led on property & casualty issues. A Mulready administration, if it came to pass, would be expected to look to continue that direction.
2019 and Beyond
In 2019, two commissioners are up and reportedly running for re-election. James Donelon (R) in Louisiana and Mike Chaney (R) in Mississippi. Both regulators are active in property and casualty workstreams at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which is particularly important to note given the hot topics coming down the P&C pipe, like catastrophe and flood insurance and the use of predictive analytics.
In 2020, Mike Kreidler (D) of Washington, Jon Godfread (R) of North Dakota, Mike Causey (R) of North Carolina, and Matthew Rosendale (R) of Montana will be up for re-election, but it’s still too soon to know for certain if all will be running. Of the four states, only Montana is subject to term limits, though Rosendale is still in his first term. However, he is running for U.S. Senate this year, so depending on the midterm election results, we could see Montana with a new commissioner before 2020.
Big Picture Impact
Within the next two years, all elected insurance commissioners will be up for re-election. On top of that, there are 36 gubernatorial elections currently underway that impact appointed commissioners in one way or another. Combined, the elections will influence the direction of the industry, both from within the NAIC and through individual state activity. That makes for a more targeted election scorecard for the insurance industry, but one that has extraordinary implications.