Democrat Wayne Goodwin is running for re-election to the office he’s held since 2008.
Republican Mike Causey is challenging Goodwin in a rematch. He last ran in 2012, when the GOP nominee won 48 percent of the vote to Goodwin’s 52 percent.
About the office
The insurance commissioner regulates insurance companies and agencies in North Carolina. The commissioner is also the state fire marshal.
Why this race matters
The insurance commissioner’s office isn’t one of the most high profile in the state, but the commissioner plays a crucial role in how much insurance of all types costs in North Carolina. The commissioner can also pursue fraud cases against businesses on behalf of consumers in the state.
“This is probably the most impactful lesser-known office,” said Goodwin.
Where the candidates stand
Causey says the state’s insurance system is outdated and needs a major overhaul, especially the N.C. Rate Bureau that determines many of the rates insurers can charge customers in the state.
“We need change in our insurance system. … That concept (the rate bureau) is keeping companies from doing business here,” said Causey. He contends the state’s current system “stifles free enterprise and competition.”
Causey calls the rate bureau “the insurance cartel,” and thinks companies should be able to opt out of doing business through the bureau. That would attract more companies offering new products and discounts that aren’t available in North Carolina, driving down prices, Causey says.
Goodwin, on the other hand, says the current system allows the state to make sure insurance companies don’t take advantage of people and overcharge them. He points to the state’s low auto insurance rates and his office’s record of recouping money from insurance companies who overcharged or misled consumers as evidence that the system works.
“We’re fighting to save people money,” said Goodwin. “Wholesale elimination of the rate bureau, as Mike Causey recommends, would cause prices to skyrocket.”
Goodwin said he does support reforms that would streamline the rate bureau’s processes and make the system more efficient.
“I see a middle approach,” said Goodwin.
The candidates also differ on their backgrounds. Goodwin points to Causey’s long experience in the insurance industry as a reason voters shouldn’t choose him.
“I’ve spent my professional life fighting against insurance companies and insurance fraud,” said Goodwin. “I believe it’s important that the state insurance commissioner not be someone who has worked for the insurance industry.”
Causey, however, points to Goodwin’s campaign receiving donations from people in the insurance industry. Causey also says his experience in the industry gives him a deep understanding of how the business works.
Another issue they clash on: the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. Causey says he’ll be “on the front lines” fighting the federal health insurance overhaul.
“I hear all the horror stories,” said Causey. “The premiums keep going up.”
North Carolina uses the federally run healthcare exchange for insurers selling subsidized ACA coverage, and has not expanded Medicaid coverage in the state. Goodwin said that’s a mistake, and the state should set up its own healthcare exchange under the ACA. That would give the insurance commissioner greater control over rates those companies charge.
“We should have a state exchange,” said Goodwin. “I don’t have the same consumer protections over rates. That is the biggest change I seek.”
Education: Bachelor’s degree from High Point University, associate’s degree from Wake Technical Community College.
Professional experience: Causey is an insurance agent, agency manager and small businessman, as well as a military police veteran.
Political resume: Fifth run for insurance commissioner.
Family: Wife and daughter.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, law degree from UNC School of Law.
Professional experience: Worked as a lawyer in private practice before being appointed assistant commissioner of insurance and assistant state fire marshal in 2005.
Political resume: Goodwin served as a representative in the N.C. House for four terms, as well as two terms as insurance commissioner.
Family: Wife and two children.