Richard Morgan and Opponents Differ on Insurance Issues
The Republican primary for state insurance commissioner is a good example of just how difficult it is to gain attention for lower ballot statewide races.
Polls show roughly half of primary voters still undecided in some of these races just days before the election; meanwhile, candidates struggle to find the financing or attention necessary to get their names and ideas before the electorate.
It doesn't matter that insurance - whether it is for health care, homes or cars - is a hot topic in North Carolina these days.
Nationally, Obamacare and health insurance reform are front and center in an election year. Within the state's borders, residents of coastal counties struggle with rising homeowner rates, and legislators consider changes to an auto insurance high-risk pool being subsidized by safe drivers.
Current Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat in his first term in office, faces no primary opposition.
Three Republicans - former state House Speaker Richard Morgan, insurance agent James McCall and lobbyist Mike Causey - are vying for their party's nomination to challenge Goodwin in the fall.
All three have experience in the insurance industry. Only Morgan, who has a stormy history with Republican Party regulars, has previously held public office. Morgan, 59, of Pinehurst, is best known for a two-year term as House co-speaker with Democrat Jim Black.
That power-sharing arrangement, and the behind-the-scenes wrangling to secure it, angered party activists, and Morgan lost his House seat in a 2006 primary.
Seeking a political comeback, Morgan is emphasizing his background as an insurance agent and in politics.
He says that he will work to stop health insurance mandates that are driving up costs and has also been critical of President Obama's health insurance reform plan.
McCall, 59, is an insurance agency owner from Mooresville who is making his first bid for public office.
He has made reforming the state's auto insurance market a key theme of his campaign, saying that "hidden taxes," meaning the fees charged to safe drivers to help cover costs for the high-risk driver pool, need to be gotten rid of.
He also would like to see the state-backed coastal homeowners insurance program known as the Beach Plan revert back to only wind and hail coverage as a means of reducing the effects on the rest of the homeowners insurance market in the state.
Causey, like Morgan and McCall, has worked as an insurance agent. A Guilford County native, he also operates an organic produce market in Greensboro and for the past decade has worked as a lobbyist in Raleigh, primarily representing an association of body shop owners.
He is making his fourth bid for the insurance commissioner's post, having lost to the late Jim Long in 1992, 1996 and 2000.
Causey says he wants to examine whether or not to do away with or change the Rate Bureau, which represents the insurance industry in proposing industry-wide insurance rate increases.
While the candidates talk about industry reform, state legislators have been reluctant to embrace change. An election may or may not make a difference.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
More like this story