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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Gary Anderson Wins: Post-Katrina Justice Rules!!

by Ana Maria

In a gloriously magnificent upset electoral victory, Democratic candidate Gary Anderson defeated George Dale 51-49% to become Mississippi’s first African American Democratic nominee for Insurance Commissioner. Anderson’s pro-consumer position resonated throughout the state sending George Dale packing after 32 years in office.

Just two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast, voters from the three coastal counties definitively voted for Anderson in a sharp slap in the face to George Dale who had come to epitomize Big Insurance. The three tiny beach towns comprising Katrina’s ground zero reside in Hancock and Harrison counties. Voters in those counties cast ballots for Gary Anderson at a rate of 69% and 82% respectively. Jackson County, which is Mississippi’s third county on the eastern end of the Gulf Coast, voted for Gary Anderson over incumbent George Dale at a rate of 76%. Voter revenge? You bet.

Anderson’s appeal to rededicate the state’s insurance commissioner position to the tradition of protecting consumers from the ravages of Big Insurance resonated throughout the state. For example, 67% of voters cast their ballots for Anderson over Dale in Hinds County where George Dale lives. The state’s capitol city of Jackson is in Hinds County, which is in the middle of the state. The Clarion Ledger, Jackson’s daily newspaper, endorsed Dale. Ooops! By a wide margin, voters must have ignored the paper’s perspective that they’d be in good hands with Ol’ George.

Of course, George Dale did his best to convince voters that his primary job was to prop up insurance companies rather than protecting policyholders. George Dale told voters that Katrina was “the worst natural disaster in U.S. history . . . and put an undue burden on insurance companies.

Mississippi voters cast their ballots which reflected their agreement with Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the “billionaire insurance titan” who stated "We are in the insurance business. We are in the risk business. And if you start taking away every risk that industry is exposed to, then what do you need an insurance company for?"

Licking their Wounds
We can count on the Dale campaign spending endless hours commiserating over what went wrong . . . with the campaign. What it will not do is entertain the idea that the campaign was doomed from the get go. No amount of nuancing, no amount of strategizing, no tactical preparations could remove from the campaign its fundamental flaw.

George Dale didn’t do his job, and many, many, many families, businesses, communities, schools, cities, towns, non-profits, and places of worship suffered—and continue to suffer—needlessly.
The Dale Campaign will surely be licking their wounds for a while. However, they may never see that the candidate inflicted those wounds upon himself.

Pundits Predicted Appallingly
Some pundits predicted that voters along the Gulf Coast would not show up to the polls. They were, uh, wrong. Some predicted that the more northern counties would carry Dale to victory. Wrong again. Some predicted that Mississippians wouldn’t cast their ballot for an African American man over a white, good ol’ boy who’s entrenched in the Old South way of doing business. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What happened?
George Dale epitomized Big Insurance, which the whole world now knows is starving Gulf Coast businesses and families of the funding that would power up the engine to recovery. The elephant in the middle of the room is Big Insurance. With George Dale out of office, we now have a chance to address the issue and remedy the problems caused during his tenure and with his help.

Breaking its legal contracts with policyholders, Big Insurance has wrongfully denied families and businesses the money required for rebuilding. George Dale sided with the insurance companies. These very same families and business owners went to the polls and cast their ballots for Gary Anderson, rejecting Dale’s business as usual approach.

Rather than rolling out the red carpet for the insurance companies as George Dale has done, Gary Anderson campaigned on a platform that includes creating a criminal investigations division. That Anderson has to set up a criminal investigations division means that George Dale never did in spite of 32 years in which to do so. Without a criminal investigation arm, Dale assured his insurance industry friends that they had nothing to fear. With Anderson's win, Dale's Big Insurance friends now have something to fear.

Lacking Imagination
Neither Dale nor the insurance industry counted on voters raging over their post-Katrina greed . . . and actually channeling their rage into the ballot box. Clearly, they never imagined that Gary Anderson could mount an effective campaign to tap into that voter rage and channel it into his own electoral victory on behalf of all of Mississippi consumers. Well, that’s what a lack of imagination will do for you.

Jacking Up Premiums
In obscene fashion, Big Insurance has jacked up the cost of insurance throughout Mississippi—just as it has done in California, Oklahoma, and elsewhere in the nation. George Dale authorized each of those jacked up premiums. Voters took note and cast their ballots that vetoed Dale’s rubber-stamping the industry’s greed-driven premium hikes.

Pocketing Industry Funds
While Dale raked in hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars essentially flaunting his torrid affair with an industry that has wreaked havoc on Mississippians, Gary Anderson signed a pledge not to take contributions from insurance companies or executives.

When talking with A.M. in the Morning! recently, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tish Williams said the biggest impediment to recovery remains the cost of insurance. Ms. Williams added that right up behind that is finding employees, which is problematic because there is no housing. The housing, she added, goes right back to the issue of insurance. So, insurance is the biggest impediment to recovery.

Post-Katrina Justice Rules!
The election of staunchly pro-consumer candidate Gary Anderson is the outcry for removing that impediment. While Big Insurance may now be heard crying in it beer over losing its sweetheart in the Mississippi Insurance Commissioner’s office, we can be heard happily singing a new tune with the election of Gary Anderson as the Democratic nominee for the state’s Insurance Commissioner. Post-Katrina Justice Rules!


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2 comments:

Casey Ann said...

Way to go Ana Maria! You did it! I've been following this story on your blog and have been inspired by it. I'm ashamed to say my own county of Adams went for Dale, but I think it was mostly through ignorance - no one was paying much attention to statewide races.

Now go get em in November!

Ana Maria said...

Believe me, TEAM Anderson did the heavy lifting. I commented on it, perhaps helping others to understand it and cheer on the Anderson Team. That team consisted of every voter, volunteer, phone banker, campaign contributor, well wisher, as well as Anastasia Apa--Gary Anderson's fantastic campaign manager and everyone else who sweated through the nitty gritty of this tough, brutal, and highly successful campaign.

Turn your shame into great pride of being part of the winning Anderson Team. Aren't you proud to have watched history right here in our state? How marvelous.

I hope you feel great about yourself and fellow Mississippians who took care of business. I am personally proud of everyone--you, included--for making this a gloriously sunny day.

Ding dong. George Dale is GONE! Wooohooo! Let's dance! :)