September 10, 2019

Fall 2019 State Elections: An Insurance View of the ‘Mid-Mid-Terms’

As the run-up to the 2020 presidential election gathers steam, it’s easy to gloss over the major gubernatorial and insurance commissioner races slated for Fall 2019. These oddly scheduled elections (we’ve nicknamed them the “mid-mid-terms”) have significant implications for the insurance industry.

As we’ve previously discussed, gubernatorial and insurance commissioner elections directly impact the insurance industry and its stakeholders. The vast majority of insurance commissioners (45 out of 56) are gubernatorial appointments. Eight commissioners are directly elected statewide, with two incumbents up for another term this fall.

With election days approaching and campaigns in high gear, a close look at the gubernatorial and insurance commissioner elections in Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky is in order.

Louisiana

The Louisiana statewide election process is unique. In the state’s open primary system, all statewide candidates run on the same ballot, regardless of party. The open statewide primary is on October 12, with a runoff on November 16 if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

Governor

John Bel Edwards (D), the incumbent, is regarded as a moderate Democrat. Edwards points to his accomplishments in office, including turning a $2 billion budget deficit into a surplus and signing a criminal justice reform bill. Vying for the seat are two Republican challengers, Eddie Risponse (R), a Louisiana businessman, and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R) from the state’s 5th Congressional District. Polls show a close race among the three, with Edwards holding a slight edge. With both Republicans attacking each other’s records instead of focusing on the incumbent Democrat, there is reported worry in conservative circles that the continued intra-party attacks will serve to re-elect Edwards.

Insurance Commissioner

In the insurance commissioner race, incumbent Jim Donelon (R) is facing a primary challenge from Tim Temple (R), who has been a local businessman and insurance agent. Donelon has been insurance commissioner since 2006, and previously served as the NAIC President in 2013. With Donelon and Temple as the only candidates in the running, the October 12 primary election will determine the outcome of the race. There will be no need for a November campaign.

Donelon holds influential leadership positions on NAIC committees, including vice chair of the Casualty Actuarial Task Force and chair of the Surplus Lines Task Force. Donelon also sits on important NAIC committees, including the Life Insurance and Annuities Committee, Innovation and Technology Task Force, and Receivership and Insolvency Task Force.

Temple recently invested $1 million in his primary challenge and has been openly critical of Donelon’s tenure as commissioner.

Mississippi

Governor

The race to succeed term-limited Governor Phil Bryant (R) pits current Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) against Lt. Governor Tate Reeves (R). Reeves secured the Republican nomination last month, defeating Bill Waller, Jr., a retired Mississippi Supreme court justice and the son of a former Mississippi Governor. The general election in the Magnolia State will take place on November 5.

Insurance Commissioner

Incumbent Mike Chaney (R) is running against challenger Robert Amos (D). Chaney has served as insurance commissioner for the last 12 years, having previously served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1993 to 1999 and in the Mississippi State Senate from 2000 to 2008.

Chaney currently serves as chair of the Catastrophe Insurance Working Group and as a member of the Accounting Practices and Procedures Working Group and Financial Condition Committee. He has previously secured safe victories (receiving 78% of the vote in 2015).

Kentucky

In a race that has received national attention, incumbent Matthew Bevin (R) is running against challenger and current Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). Bevin has with the public in his state, in part due to the deep cuts in government services under his administration. Beshear is the son of a former Kentucky governor and was elected Attorney General in 2015 by 2,200 votes.

Beshear has been a thorn in Bevin’s side during his tenure as Attorney General, repeatedly suing Bevin’s administration over budget cuts to the state’s public universities. The two have continued to go head to head, with the Kentucky Supreme Court recently blocking Beshear’s request to hire outside counsel to assist with the state’s pending litigation against opioid manufacturers.

Beshear has secured some bipartisan support, with the endorsement of an influential Republican state senator, bringing a new level of intrigue to the race. The polls are tight with the election scheduled for November 5.

Kentucky’s current insurance commissioner, Nancy Atkins, was appointed by Bevin in April 2017. She brings deep insurance industry experience, as well as a health care background. Atkins sits on the Financial Regulation Standards and Accreditation Committee, the Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee, and the Reinsurance Task Force. Since the commissioner’s office is a gubernatorial appointment, the race’s tightening brings with it the interest of insurance stakeholders.

The outcomes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky will be closely watched by the insurance world, leading up to the following key dates:
  • October 12: Open Louisiana primary – determines outcome of commissioner race and either narrows the gubernatorial field or determines a winner if a candidate exceeds 50%.
  • November 6: Gubernatorial and commissioner general election in Mississippi, and gubernatorial general election in Kentucky.
  • November 12: Gubernatorial general election in Louisiana if necessary.
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