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Scott Sinder and John Fielding

The mid-term election focus was on the Democratic takeover of Congress, but another big story was taking place in state capitals throughout the nation, where the election results will likely result in new insurance commissioners in a dozen or more states.

Voters in 36 states elected governors in November, and voters in four states elected insurance commissioners. Just how much this change in elected personnel will result in changes in insurance regulation and policy remains unknown at this point.

The most notable changes are in California, which elected a new insurance commissioner, and in New York, where Gov. Eliot Spitzer will appoint a new superintendent.

We are looking at a minimum of nine new commissioners, perhaps more. Four current commissioners have also been in office for only a few months. Kentucky’s Julie McPeak, a former insurance department general counsel, was appointed department executive director. Louisiana’s Jim Donelon won a special election in September to fulfill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Robert Wooley, who joined a Baton Rouge lobby firm. Steve Goldman was appointed New Jersey commissioner last spring. Morris Chavez was recently appointed superintendent in New Mexico.

This adds up to significant turnover in the regulatory ranks. We don’t know what impact these new regulators will have in their states or at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, but it appears some are getting the message that change is needed. At a recent meeting in Kansas City, Iowa Commissioner Voss and North Dakota Commissioner Jim Poolman urged regulatory staffs around the nation to do more to modernize and streamline producer license requirements and processes. They say they will push fellow commissioners on licensing and other regulatory reforms.

This is a good sign. We hope the new commissioners will share this realistic, reformist approach and help the NAIC live down its historical acronym for “No Action Is Contemplated.”

Sinder is CIAB general counsel. ssinder@thescottgroupdc.com Fielding is of counsel at The Scott Group. jfielding@thescottgroupdc.com

Here is a state-by-state breakdown (with information up-to-date as of early December): Alabama: Republican Gov. Bob Riley re-elected. Commissioner Walter Bell expected to stay.
Alaska: Republican Sarah Palin elected governor, replacing Frank Murkowski (who lost his party’s primary). Palin expected to keep Director Linda Hall.
Arizona: Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano re-elected. Director Christina Urias expected to stay.
Arkansas: Democrat Mike Beebe elected governor, replacing retiring Republican Mike Huckabee. Beebe likely to replace Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman.
California: Republican Steve Poizner defeats Democrat Cruz Bustamante for insurance commissioner. Poizner succeeds John Garamendi, who was elected lieutenant governor.
Colorado: Democrat Bill Ritter defeats Republican Bob Beauprez. With switch in party control, Ritter likely to replace Commissioner David Rivera.
Connecticut: Gov. M. Jodi Rell re-elected. Commissioner Sue Cogswell expected to stay.
District of Columbia: Democrat Adrian Fenty elected to succeed Mayor Anthony Williams. Fenty asks all appointed officials to submit resignations. Commissioner Tom Hampton awaits word of his future.
Florida: Democrat Alex Sink elected CFO, replacing Republican Tom Gallagher. No word on Gallagher appointee Commissioner Kevin McCarty.
Georgia: John Oxendine re-elected commissioner after dropping out of lieutenant governor’s race.
Hawaii: Republican Gov. Linda Lingle re-elected. Insurance Commissioner Jeff Schmidt expected to stay.
Idaho: Republican Butch Otter elected governor and will appoint a new director. Shad Priest has served as acting director.
Illinois: Democrat Gov. Rod Blagojevich re-elected. Insurance Director Mike McRaith expected to stay.
Iowa: Democrat Chet Culver succeeds Democrat Tom Vilsack. Commissioner Susan Voss expected to stay.
Kansas: Republican Sandy Praeger re-elected insurance commissioner.
Maine: Gov. John Baldacci re-elected, but Insurance Superintendent Al Iuppa (NAIC president in 2006) is leaving for the private sector.
Maryland: Democrat Martin O’Malley defeats Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Likely to replace Commissioner Steve Orr.
Massachusetts: Democrat Deval Patrick defeats Kerry Healey in bid to succeed Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. Patrick likely to replace Commissioner Julie Bowler.
Michigan: Gov. Jennifer Granholm re-elected. Commissioner Linda Watters expected to stay.
Minnesota: Gov. Tim Pawlenty re-elected. Commissioner Glenn Wilson expected to stay.
Nebraska: Gov. David Heineman re-elected. Director Tim Wagner expected to stay.

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