Dale files on day before candidates’ qualifying deadline

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, March 1, 2007

After considering running as an independent, Insurance Commissioner George Dale filed papers Wednesday to seek an eighth four-year term as a Democrat.

He qualified on the next-to-last day possible. There’s a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline for people to become candidates for a long list of Mississippi offices, from governor to state senator to county supervisor.

Party primaries are Aug. 7 and the general election is Nov. 6.

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Dale, who has been in the headlines frequently in the 18 months since Hurricane Katrina, said the qualifying papers sat on his desk for weeks and he finally dropped them off at the Democratic Party headquarters. He said at one point, he had called the secretary of state’s office to find out what he’d have to do to qualify as an independent.

An independent running for any statewide office would have to gather 1,000 signatures. Candidates running under a party label simply have to fill out an application and pay a fee.

Dale said he believes the insurance commissioner’s job should be nonpartisan.

“I feel attuned to both political parties. I just hate to have to run as a party,” Dale said. “There are people who will vote against me simply because I have a ‘D’ by my name or against me simply because I had an ‘R’ by my name.”

Dale, 66, is the longest-serving state insurance commissioner in the nation. He was first elected in 1975. The only other Democrat in the race so far is Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg, who also has filed to run for the other seven statewide offices and for Southern District Public Service Commissioner.

The only Republican running for insurance commissioner so far is Daniel Smith, 27, of Ocean Springs, a University of Mississippi student who said he’s scheduled to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in human resources. Smith filed qualifying papers Wednesday.

“I’ve always wanted to get into politics,” Smith said in a phone interview. “I figured the best way to do it is just to jump in.”

Smith said his parents lost their home to Katrina and spent about a year in court to try to get money from their insurance company. He said he wasn’t sure which insurance company it was.

“George Dale is showing a blind eye to the people down there,” Smith said.

Smith said he didn’t know whether his family’s experience with their insurer after Katrina would affect the way he’d deal with insurance companies if he’s elected.

Other new developments:

— Rickey Cole of Ovett, a former state Democratic Party chairman, filed Wednesday to run for secretary of state. He’ll face Jabari Toins of Jackson and O’Hara in the Democratic primary.

State Rep. Mike Lott, R-Petal, filed this week to run for secretary of state. Other Republicans in the primary are attorney Delbert Hosemann of Jackson, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1998; former Columbus Mayor Jeffrey Rupp; and Gene Sills of Crystal Springs.

— Jacob Ray of Jackson, a special assistant attorney general, qualified to run as a Democrat for state auditor; officials said Ray plans to resign from the attorney general’s office after wrapping up some cases there. Others in the Democratic primary for auditor are Todd Brand of Bailey, Mike Sumrall of Mount Olive and O’Hara. The only Republican who has signed up to run for auditor is state Sen. Stacey Pickering of Laurel.

There are no incumbents running for three statewide offices — lieutenant governor, secretary of state and auditor.