Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens’ decision not to seek re-election this year opened up the playing field for the state’s top insurance post for the first time since 2010.
Hudgens, a Republican, announced in July 2017 he would not run for a third term as Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, saying he was retiring from public office to spend more time with his family.
Running to replace him in the election happening today is Democrat Janice Laws, an insurance agent, and Jim Beck, a former deputy insurance commissioner for GADOI.
Beck, who announced his candidacy in Aug. 2017, has more than 30 years of experience working in the industry, including for an independent insurance agency, and serving for 12 years as a director for a Fortune 150 property and casualty insurance company.
During his public service, he served as Deputy Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner for the State of Georgia, He was most recently chief of staff for Hudgens.
According to his campaign website, Beck said his top priorities if he is elected would be to focus on Georgia health care solutions centered on a free market system.
“The federal government should get out o the way and allow Georgia to explore and find creative market-driven state-based solutions to the issue of access to health care,” he said on his candidate page.
His other priorities would include defending against insurance fraud against seniors and veterans and protecting consumers from “runaway” auto insurance rates.
“I will fight to protect Georgia consumers and provide stability in the auto insurance marketplace. Georgia auto insurance rates have been spiraling out of control. I will organize and begin holding tele-town hall hearings on all proposed excessive rate increases, and if appropriate, challenge them in court,” he said.
In June, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Beck’s state work records had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury. Beck’s campaign released a statement to the AJC at the time saying Beck didn’t know what the investigation was about and that he was not in a position to comment on it. Last month, AJC.com reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has yet to release any information on the case.
Democratic candidate Laws is a 16-year-veteran of the insurance industry and current owner of her own agency, J. Laws & Associates.
She is also an author and founder of Total Life Empowerment, where she mentors aspiring entrepreneurs and agents. As an insurance professional, Laws has been recognized as a leader and pace-setter in the industry by Liberty Mutual Insurance CO. and Nationwide Insurance, according to her bio on her campaign site.
Laws, who moved to the U.S. from Jamaica as a teenager, according to her campaign site, also lists addressing the cost of auto insurance to Georgia consumers as one of her top priorities. She said Senate Bill 276, which passed in 2008, allows proposed insurance rate increases to go unchallenged.
“I will use my office to challenge insurance providers and press lawmakers for changes,” Laws wrote on her site. “While I support insurers and the business community, I do not support them at the expense of Georgia’s consumers.”
Laws noted advocating for caps on health insurance premium increases, lower surcharges for accident and claims on car insurance, and ensuring fair underwriting practices for home owners and industrial loans, were also among her top priorities.
Also in the race is Libertarian Donnie Foster, an army veteran and ex-deputy sheriff.
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