STATE FARM'S HEAD ON A PLATTER
What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dale faces stiff competition for insurance commissioner




7/22/2007 11:22:19 PM
By Carlie Kollath
Daily Journal

TUPELO This year's race for state insurance commissioner is shaping up to be one of the hottest in 30 years. It's also the one that can affect your bank account the most, claims one of the candidates.

The longtime incumbent has been under intense public scrutiny, and three people are challenging him for the post.

George Dale, a Democrat from Clinton, has been insurance commissioner 32 years, earning him the nickname "the Strom Thurmond of insurance regulators" by his peers. In 2003, he captured 70.1 percent of the vote. Then Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Since then, he has fallen under heavy criticism for being too close to the insurance industry. His troubles grew when the Democratic Party did not certify his bid to run in the party's Aug. 7 primary, citing Dale's endorsement of President Bush in 2004 as cause to question his loyalty.

However, after Dale's failed attempt to run as an independent and a court's overruling of the Democratic Party's decision, Dale is on the ballot as a Democrat.

Dale said the past 18 months have been "challenging," but things are "gradually returning to normal."

With all the money that's been paid out on the coast for Katrina claims, he said he's working to make sure rates in North Mississippi aren't affected. He also said he's working to get more money to fire protection in rural areas, which would include many areas in Northeast Mississippi.

It's his goal to work toward a national clearinghouse for insurance companies, so, similar to how banks operate, if an insurance company needs to get something approved it can go to a central office and it will be passed in all the states. Right now, each state must approve it individually.

Dale faces Gary Anderson in the Aug. 7 primary. Anderson, a Byhalia native and private consultant, was the chief fiscal officer for Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's administration and the 2003 Democratic nominee for state treasurer. Anderson's platform emphasizes balancing the state's insurance market in favor of consumers.

'Cozy relationship'
Anderson's campaign theme centers around his allegations that Dale has a "cozy relationship" with the insurance industry. Anderson says Dale's acceptance of campaign contributions from the insurance industry has led to insurance companies "having their way with us."

Dale, however, told a group of Northeast Mississippi insurance professionals July 12 that campaigns need money and "usually it's somebody who has some dealings with the insurance industry" who is interested in contributing to his campaign.

"The public assumes that if you take money from the people you regulate, then something must be wrong," Dale said. "It's a dilemma I find myself in."

As a result, Anderson is not accepting money from insurance companies or their executives.

The questions surrounding Dale's relationship with the insurance industry are part of what led Sen. Mike Chaney to run for the post. Chaney, born in Tupelo but now a resident of Vicksburg, has been a Republican legislator 14 years in the Senate and the House.

While most people associate him with the education committee, which he chairs, he also is on the insurance committee. The committee was responsible for setting up the insurance windpool that provides last-resort insurance to home and business owners on the coast.

He says Dale is his friend and he doesn't think Dale is a bad guy, "he just has one year of experience 32 times." Chaney's goal is to take his business background and apply it to the office, while serving as an advocate for the state's 2.9 million residents.

He also wants to increase competition within the state's insurance market and level the playing field for all the companies. In addition, if elected, Chaney said he wants to form a coalition of states so if an insurance company pulls out of Mississippi, it has to pull out of the other states in the group.

And in direct opposition to Dale's stance, Chaney wants to make the insurance commissioner an appointed official, instead of elected.

Chaney faces Ronnie English in the Republican primary. A resident of Vancleave and a fire marshal at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, English said he is running to "get some insurance that is affordable." English said, if elected, he will "get with some legislators and get some laws passed" to accomplish his goal.

He wasn't able to elaborate on what types of laws, but said he would work to lower insurance companies' profit margins on homeowner policies in an effort to lower the rates.

He also is using his own money to fund his campaign, with much of the funds going toward printing yard signs that will be distributed this week.

Many of the issues in the insurance commissioner's race come down to money. Chaney said while it's unlikely that taxes will go up or down 10 percent, it is a possibility that insurance premiums will.

"This race has the ability to take more money out or put more money into your pocketbook than any other race right now," he said.

Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 7/23/2007 6:00:00 AM, section A , page 1



INSURANCE COMMISSIONER JOB DUTIES

- Elected to a four-year term.

- Charged with execution of all laws relative to insurance companies, corporations, associations and fraternal orders, their agents and adjusters.

- Licenses and regulates the practices of all insurance companies, agents, burial associations, fraternal societies, bail bondsmen and other entities engaged in the business of insurance.

- Serves as state fire marshal and administers the Mississippi Fire Prevention Code.

- Establishes guidelines, use and accountability for municipal and county fire protection funds.

- Licenses manufacturers, installers, transporters and dealers of mobile homes and regulates their practices.

- Administers the Liquefied Compressed Gas Equipment Law which governs butane.


Gary Anderson
Born in Byhalia. Now lives in Jackson.- Associate's degree, Northwest Community College.- Bachelor's and master's, University of Mississippi.- Married 25 years to Debra Miller Anderson.- Worked in the administrations of five governors.- Ran for state treasurer in 2003.

Mike Chaney
Born in Tupelo. Now lives in Vicksburg.- Bachelor's degree, Mississippi State University.- Education for Ministry theology certificate, University of the South. - Army Reserve veteran of Vietnam.- Married 41 years to Mary Thurmond Chaney.- Senator of District 23. Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Member of several committees, including insurance.- Was a state representative for seven years.

George Dale
Lives in Clinton. Elected insurance commissioner in 1975. Now in his eighth term, the longest-serving insurance commissioner in the United States. ssociate's degree, Pearl River Junior College.Bachelor's and master's, Mississippi College. Was a teacher, coach and school administrator in the Moss Point public school system. Married to Yvette Bosarge Dale.

Ronnie English
Born in Plant City, Fla. Has lived in Vancleave since 1964. Ran for Southern District transportation commissioner in 1999.Currently fire marshal for Northrup Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula.Worked in the construction and auto industry. Married 36 years to Karlene Reuhs English.

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