Anderson criticizes ‘bait-and-switch’ insurance regulation

Published 3:34 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gary Anderson of Jackson, a Democratic candidate for state insurance commissioner, said in launching his campaign Tuesday that too many Mississippi families are having problems getting insurance companies to pay legitimate claims.

Since Hurricane Katrina, thousands of Mississippi homeowners have been involved with lengthy court disputes over insurance coverage. Anderson, during a news conference on the state Capitol steps, said an insurance policy should be “a two-way street.”

“A family pays a premium. They receive coverage,” Anderson said. “Too often, it seems to be a game of bait-and-switch where the rules change in the middle of the game.”

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Anderson is among the candidates challenging George Dale of Clinton, the longest serving state insurance commissioner in the nation. Dale was first elected in November 1975 and, for now, he’s engaged in a court battle to get his name back on the Democratic primary ballot.

Candidates’ qualifying deadline was March 1. In a split decision on March 17, the state Democratic executive committee voted not to let Dale run as a Democrat. In 2004, he publicly supported the re-election of President Bush, a Republican.

This Friday, Circuit Judge Henry L. Lackey is to hear arguments in the ballot dispute.

Anderson — who’s not on the Democratic Party executive committee — has not taken a public stance about the vote to remove Dale from the ballot, and he would not do so when asked about it Tuesday.

Dale said he is “focused on getting this court situation behind us,” and he wouldn’t respond to Anderson’s criticism about the way the insurance commissioner’s office has been run.

“While all this is going on, I have to be insurance commissioner and I don’t intend to allow anything related to the campaign keep me from working extremely hard as insurance commissioner,” said Dale, reached by phone in Starkville.

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

Anderson, 50, is a former state fiscal officer who has been running his own government affairs and financial consulting business. The Byhalia native is making his second run for statewide office. In 2003, he was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer when no incumbent was running. He lost to Republican Tate Reeves, a political newcomer.

Anderson and Jim Raspberry of Laurel are the only candidates now on the Democratic primary ballot for insurance commissioner. Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg, who filed qualifying papers for that and several other races, was not allowed on the Democratic ballot for insurance commissioner, and he has challenged the party’s decision in court.

The Republicans running for insurance commissioner are state Sen. Mike Chaney of Vicksburg and Ronnie D. English of Vancleave. Two other Republicans have left the race since qualifying, party officials said.