By Patrick B. McGuigan
Of all the Democrats seeking election to statewide posts in Oklahoma, Commissioner of Insurance Kim Holland may have the best chance to survive the remarkable tide toward Republicans. In late public opinion surveys, Commissioner Holland held a narrow advantage over Tulsa businessman John Doak, the Republican nominee.
In his late advertising and press releases, Doak is accusing Holland of being a Democrat, a powerful tactic in a year when President Barack Obama’s policies are hugely unpopular with Oklahomans. On the other hand, Holland points to instances when her fiscal conservatism has led her to battle for taxpayers.
Doak, meanwhile, is facing some late scrutiny for past financial troubles.
Tulsa radio journalist Eddie Huff is a Doak critic. In a recent commentary, Huff was highly critical of Doak’s ties to attorney Stephen Jones of Enid, especially in considering regulatory and legal actions Commissioner Holland has taken in regard to Jones’ clients.
Jones has represented the family of Texas real estate giant Gene Phillips and his son Brad Phillips. Gene Phillips was implicated, but never charged, in the bribery case involving Former Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher.
In Huff’s critical view: “Enter the case of Park Avenue Property and Casualty Company. … Kim Holland filed suit against the buyer and seller of Park Avenue in the amount of $102 million. The suit names Providence Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Park Avenue, including its owner and seven of its execs, banker Charles Antonucci, and investment firm Oppenheimer & Company.
“According to the Daily Oklahoman, Holland's suit maintains that Antonucci, Oppenheimer and the Park execs, looted the firm in the amount of $37.5 million and caused the one day collapse of the company against its policy holders.
“Enter Stephen Jones as attorney for Providence Holdings owner Jerry Lancaster. Jones claims the fraud was perpetrated against Providence and Mr. Lancaster by Charles Antonucci.
“While the case is just beginning, my question is, how vigorously will John Doak go after this case if he is elected insurance commissioner considering that the attorney and law firm for the other side are his major supporters and campaign financiers. Add this to the connection to the Phillips Family's (the other Jones connection) interests and one has to wonder.”
Like a few other candidates in this year where personal financial troubles are under scrutiny from voters focused on spending and budgeting, Doak has some issues that have drawn scrutiny.
According to a letter from the Oklahoma Tax Commission to the Secretary of State, dated May 17, 2010, the John Doak Insurance Agency, created in 1994, was suspended in January 1997 for “failure to comply with Franchise Tax Laws.”
Holland has run generally cheerful, even humorous, television advertisements. Doak got a boost last week when U.S. Tom Coburn issued a formal endorsement, but Holland has her own share of notable endorsements.
Former OU football Coach Barry Switzer endorsed Holland a few days ago, and brought former Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens along for the ride. In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Switzer said, "I have been able to get to know Kim Holland over the past few years and I am always impressed by her professionalism and integrity. She is an outstanding public servant who works tirelessly for all Oklahomans – and we need to keep her on the job as our State Insurance Commissioner.”
Switzer continued, “A few years ago my daughter was having difficulty getting her insurance company to pay claims on complications that arose during her pregnancy. I called Commissioner Holland for help; she immediately took action, holding the company accountable and taking care of my daughter in the process. My support for Kim is not political – it’s personal.”
Owens, who owns and operates an independent insurance agency in Norman, explained his support: “Kim has been a friend and colleague for many years. She is someone every Oklahoman can count on to protect them from fraud and abuse, and to hold insurance companies accountable. She has more than 25 years of experience running a small business before she was elected insurance commissioner.”
"She knows the needs of Oklahomans and understands what is important to them. Kim has been on the front lines of keeping rates low and business competitive while always protecting consumers,” Owens said. “Kim Holland has restored integrity and brought unparalleled professionalism to her office and the Insurance Department.”
In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Holland said, “I am honored and humbled by the support of Steve and Coach Switzer. It means a lot to me to have the support of two outstanding Sooners, and two men who have had such a positive impact on the state of Oklahoma - not only in sports, but in their business and civic lives as well.”