Incumbents Maintain Seats in Insurance Commissioner Races

November 8, 2000

Six insurance commissioner seats were up for grabs Tuesday, with only two incumbents seeking reelection. At the time of this writing, all official tabulations were not completed, so the percentage by which some of the winners were elected was not available.

In Delaware two-term incumbent Donna Lee Williams defeated Karen Weldin Stewart. Williams has promised to focus on consumer protection as it applies to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, pushing for legislation to safeguard the privacy of consumer information.

Florida’s race to fill Bill Nelson’s seat went to Republican Tom Gallagher, who held the post from 1989 to 1995. Gallagher will fill the two-year unexpired term Nelson left in his successful bid for a U.S. Senate seat. Gallagher defeated Democrat John Cosgrove for the seat by a wide margin. He will also be Florida’s last insurance commissioner.

Gallagher, 56, departing state education commissioner and two-time gubernatorial candidate, settled for the commissioner race after party leaders persuaded him to drop out of the U.S. Senate race so fellow Republican Bill McCollum could run against Nelson.

Gallagher defeated Cosgrove on broad promises of reform compared to Cosgrove’s specific insurance industry reform plan. But late Tuesday, Gallagher released some information on what he hopes to accomplish while in office. Gallagher campaign manager Walter Graham said the commissioner elect plans to eliminate an arbitration panel that enables insurance companies to appeal the commissioner’s rate decisions, adding more consumer representatives to an industry-controlled windstorm insurance rate board and appoint a task force to recommend ways to lower rates.

Besides serving as commissioner, Gallagher will serve as treasurer and fire marshal and oversee the merging of the agency with the state comptroller’s office. Gallagher will be the state’s last elected insurance commissioner as the merged office will be led by an appointed chief financial officer.

In Montana, Democrat John Morrison defeated Republican Joyce Schmidt and Natural Law candidate Rebecca Scott for the state’s insurance commissioner equivalent, state auditor. Morrison will fill incumbent Mark O’Keefe’s position. O’Keefe, who lost a close race (52 percent to 48 percent) to former Lt. Gov. Judy Martz, was barred from serving a third term as state auditor by term limits. Morris has said his focus as auditor will be to protect consumers, thus benefiting insurers that deal honestly with policyholders.

In North Carolina, Democrat Jim Long has won his third consecutive race for insurance commissioner against Republican Mike Causey. Long defeated Causey comfortably, 57 percent to 43 percent. The victory marks Long’s fifth time to win the seat. He is a former president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

In North Dakota, Republican Jim Poolman defeated Democrat Gorman King Jr. 53 percent to 47 percent. Poolman, a trust officer for a Grand Forks bank and two-term state representative, will succeed Glenn Pomeroy, a former chairman of the National Association of Insurance Commissioner, who was defeated by Wayne Stenehjam for state attorney general.

In Washington, Democrat Mike Kreidler will fill the seat vacated by Deborah Senn in her unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat. Kreidler, an optometrist and former state legislator and U.S. congressman, defeated Republican Don Davidson. Davidson is a dentist, past president of the Seattle-King County Dental Assn. and former mayor of Bellevue.

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