From agent to politician, state Sen. Ted Gaines wants back in the insurance business – this time as the state’s top regulator of the industry.
Gaines, R-Roseville, recently announced he’s running for California’s insurance commissioner post, likely pitting him again Democrat incumbent Dave Jones and others for the coveted post.
Gaines has positioned himself as an advocate for small businesses and a staunch opponent of higher taxes and government programs first as an assemblyman and now as a senator.
He owns Gaines Insurance, following in the footsteps of his insurance agent father, Robert. The family-owned and operated firm, which he runs with the help of his politician wife, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, offers a variety of insurance products for individuals and businesses including auto, homeowners, life, boat, flood, earthquake and umbrella. Gaines spoke with Insurance Journal about insurance and politics.
Insurance Journal: How did you get into the insurance business?
Gaines: I always wanted to run my own business so it was a wonderful opportunity when my dad asked me if I was interested in joining him in the family business. I love helping people and I love owning my own business. The freedom is awesome. Who could ask for anything more other than passing the opportunity to my children. My daughter, Caroline, is a licensed agent at Gaines Insurance, and I have another daughter Haley who is a commercial lines underwriter at Allied. I will never forget Haley telling me after arriving home from her Allied internship two years ago ‘Dad I love insurance.’ Does it get any better than that?
Insurance Journal: What do you do in the insurance business?
Gaines: I own Gaines Insurance, which I run with my wife and my daughter. It’s a brokerage where we serve businesses and individual clients.
Insurance Journal: Are you still in the insurance business?
Gaines: I am. Even with the demands of being a state senator, I try to get to my business as much as I can and I am still writing policies and prospecting for clients just like I always have.
Insurance Journal: What did you like about the insurance business?
Gaines: The autonomy was a huge draw to me and the chance to be rewarded directly for your efforts. Over the years, I have really found it fulfilling to build relationships with my clients and to help them grow their businesses.
Insurance Journal: When and how did you get into politics?
Gaines: I had always had an interest in politics and even helped on the Gerald Ford campaign while I was still in high school. I started at the local level on a county board of supervisors and feel very fortunate that the people have continued to put faith in me and elect me to serve as their assemblyman and now senator.
Insurance Journal: What lessons from your insurance career have you brought into politics?
Gaines: I think the fact that I’ve run my own business has been of the most value. I make the case all the time that government needs to be run more like a business, with an eye towards conservative money management and planning for the future. It’s a great responsibility to have employees who depend on you, and it’s a great responsibility to have taxpayers who depend on you to be a good steward of their tax dollars.
Insurance Journal: How has your experience in insurance informed your public service, your positions, your issues?
Gaines: I have seen how competition ultimately provides the best opportunities for consumers to meet their needs, not government mandates. I don’t want to see barriers to entry in California’s insurance markets or other markets, either. Competition lowers prices and leads to new and innovative products and services that benefit us all.
Insurance Journal: Have you worked on insurance legislation or issues? Any examples?
Gaines: I am vice chair of the insurance committee, so I deal with insurance issues all the time. I think my background as a broker, agent, and of course, consumer, gives me a great and well-rounded perspective on the industry and benefits me as a legislator.
Insurance Journal: What are some good and bad lowlights and highlights of your experience in politics thus far?
Gaines: I’m an optimist, so I don’t focus on the lowlights. I know that throughout my career I’ve fought to keep taxes down and to make California the number-one place to do business, so when I see us moving backwards it’s frustrating to me because I know it makes it tougher on my constituents to make a good living and raise their families here. Helping my constituents is an everyday highlight for me and I make sure that my staff and I go all out to give them the best service we can possibly give them.
More articles in the Insurance Pros in Politics series from Insurance Journal: