State Insurance Commissioner George Dale said he has not decided whether to seek re-election this year, saying he is weighing family obligations and a desire to help Mississippi with the challenges still looming after Hurricane Katrina.
“My family can’t understand why I’d want to continue going through what I’ve been through the last 15 months,” Dale said, referring to criticism and the difficulty in finding solutions to the insurance crisis facing the state.
“I enjoy the challenge,” said Dale, 66. “And I never get tired of someone saying, ‘Your office helped me.”‘
No one else has filed to run for the seat, according to the state Republican and Democratic parties.
Dale, a Democrat, was first elected in 1975, and is in his seventh term. He served longer than any other elected insurance commissioner in the nation.
His remarks came Thursday after a meeting of House and Senate lawmakers in which Dale offered suggestions to help lower insurance rates on the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
Katrina devastated south Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2005, and a glacial pace of rebuilding in some areas has been blamed on the exorbitant cost of insurance.
Residential insurance rates in areas covered by the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association are currently about 90 percent higher than before the storm hit. It’s about 268 percent higher for commercial properties, a rate that has left many small businesses unable to rebuild.
The underwriting association, also known as the wind pool is the insurer of last resort in the state, and it covers about 15,000 homes and businesses.
Dale said the challenge for lawmakers and others is finding a way to lower those rates without causing a significant increase in insurance costs in other areas while at the same time persuading insurers to write more wind policies.
The deadline for qualifying for re-election is March 1. Dale said he will announce a decision once he has made up his mind.
At least one Democrat who had thought about challenging Dale, Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto, says he won’t enter the insurance race. Instead, Moak says he’ll seek another term in the House.
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