By Patrick B. McGuigan
Former Commissioner John Crawford of Oklahoma City and Tulsa businessman John Doak will compete for the Republican nomination for Insurance Commissioner in the Tuesday, August 24 runoff election. The winner of the runoff will challenge incumbent Commissioner Kim Holland, a Democrat, in November.
In the July 27 primary, Crawford had 92,924 votes, for 41.68% of the total. Doak had 87,274 supporters, or 39.14%. Mark Croucher of Jenks has 42,772 votes, for 19.18%.
The two candidates spoke at the Capitol Republican Caucus meeting in downtown Oklahoma City today (Wednesday, August 18). Along with a pair of local judicial candidates, the pair spoke for a few minutes each, then spent 10 minutes with each of four small groups, allowing some time for direct interaction with members of the caucus. Their criticisms of Holland were largely, but not entirely, focused on her partisan affiliation and their contentions she has been insufficiently critical of the new federal health care law.
In his speech to the entire caucus, Doak professed his “Reagan conservative” principles, saying he understands risk management, business regulation and the insurance industry’s impact on senior citizens and others. He described his campaigning, including what he called a memorable stop in Webbers Fall where he was the only Republican in a room of 75 people, including U.S. Rep. Dan Boren.
In the small group session CapitolBeatOK witnessed, Doak stressed his opposition to “ObamaCare” and insurance coverage mandates. However, he expressed sympathy for the needs of those afflicted with autism and said the cost of providing insurance coverage for such people should be examined.
Doak’s recurring theme is that he will make the agency “quicker, faster and more prompt,” putting an emphasis on consumer advocacy, financial responsibility and customer service.
Former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles endorsed Doak last week, as did James Dunn, a Republican National Committeeman for the Sooner State. Doak had previously garnered the backing of the Oklahoma Conservative PAC (OCPAC).
Also encouraging to Doak and his supporters was last week’s endorsement from The Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper, which read in part: “[Doak] has found fault with Holland's administration, but that's part of his role as a candidate; voters will sort out the differences between the nominees before the general election.”
The editorial also said, “Holland has restored integrity to an agency riddled with scandal and impropriety. Her predecessor was sent to prison. His predecessor was Crawford, subject of an FBI investigation regarding a software contract. Voters rejected his re-election bid. Twelve years later, Crawford has not make a good case for getting a second term now.”
Former Commissioner Crawford, whose entry into the primary at the June filing was a surprise, is largely basing his campaign on the record he built in one term at the agency.
Crawford touts, on a campaign website, his understanding of the agency as being “charged with making sure every insurance company has the money to pay claims. As an actuary, I have the experience as a qualified expert on the financials of insurance companies.”
At the Capitol Republican Caucus session, former Commissioner Crawford promised to oppose the kind of “double-digit rate increases” that he says were not permitted when he was at the agency. Crawford expressed concern at the collapse of state regulatory authority envisioned in the new federal health care bill, and predicted the entire state Insurance code will need to be rewritten.
While both candidates were clearly sympathetic to litigation designed to impede the new federal law or get it declared unconstitutional, Crawford said the best hope to ameliorate the negative effects of “ObamaCare” lies at the congressional level.
The former commissioner commented, “So many changes will be needed that it may take years to sort it out.” On autism questions, he promised caucus members he would study new data on the projected cost of mandated autism coverage.
This week Crawford distributed an endorsement garnered from Croucher, a favorite of some conservative “Tea Party” activists. Croucher said, “Before long, government mandates that are tied to the Obama health reforms will be headed to Oklahoma. John Crawford has the experience and intellect to fight vigorously against the extremist and ill-advised Obama plan.”
The first Republican ever elected to the state insurance job, Crawford has frequently issued statements assailing the new federal health care law.