NC insurance commissioner race: 3 Republicans vie to unseat Democrat Goodwin

The incumbent

Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat, has no primary opposition in his bid for re-election.

The challengers

Mike Causey, Joe McLaughlin and Ronald Pierce are running for the Republican nomination to oppose Goodwin in November.

About the office

The insurance commissioner regulates insurance companies and agents operating in North Carolina. The commissioner also serves as state fire marshal.

Where the candidates stand

Causey is on his fifth run for the commissioner’s office. He last ran in 2012, when the GOP nominee won 48 percent of the vote to Goodwin’s 52 percent.

Causey says one of his goals is to have more insurance companies do business in the state to give consumers more choices.

He likes the idea of allowing insurance companies to opt out of dealing with the N.C. Rate Bureau, which submits rate changes on behalf of insurers. The insurance commissioner reviews those requests and decides whether the change is justified.

“More companies would want to come into North Carolina to do business,” Causey said.

Introducing more competition would also help lower rates, he said.

Companies that prefer business under the rate bureau, which Causey likens to a “communist dictatorship,” would be able to continue doing so, he said.

Causey also said he would push to improve customer service at the N.C. Department of Insurance, citing complaints he said he’s heard from consumers.

McLaughlin, a former Onslow County commissioner, also stresses the need for more competition in North Carolina’s insurance industry.

“Part of the problem we have, especially in the health care arena, is we have a concentrated market,” he said.

When asked how he would boost competition, McLauglin said he doesn’t have specific recommendations. But any changes would have to be a “win-win-win,” he said.

“I don’t have all the answers. But (one of the) questions that I would pose to the staff as well as the insurance companies: Why is North Carolina one of the few states in the country that has a rate bureau?” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said that, if elected, he would seek a review of the bureau to determine whether it’s the best system for providing a competitive insurance market for consumers.

He also pledges to hold accountable any bad actors in the industry. But, he said, as insurance commissioner “you can’t make insurance companies the enemy.”

“Are there companies who treat people badly? I am sure there are,” he said. “But to tar the whole industry with that kind of a brush, it’s not helpful.”

Pierce said he is going after the incumbent’s job in part because of a 2014 arrest for fraud accusations brought against him by Goodwin’s office.

That year, Goodwin announced the Charlotte construction company owner had been arrested on 108 fraud charges. Among other things, the insurance department accused Pierce of providing inflated hail-damage repair estimates to homeowners and receiving $450,000 in fraudulent claims payments from insurance companies. Prosecutors later dismissed the charges.

Pierce, who discusses the experience in a book he wrote, “Pissed Off,” says the charges ruined his personal and business reputations. He contends that the charges were brought against him in retaliation for being critical of insurance companies. Goodwin denies that retaliation was a factor in the charges.

Pierce says he wants to end what he considers a revolving door involving the insurance department and insurers.

“This department of insurance is a governmental entity. It is for the citizens of North Carolina,” he said. “Right now, the way it’s being run, it is only for insurance companies.”

On his website, he claims that there is corruption at the department and that it and insurers lie to consumers.

Pierce said that if elected, he would push for every employee at the insurance department to sign noncompete contracts. On his website, he also says the department’s deputy commissioners would have to justify their jobs to him “each and every day.”

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

Mike Causey

Age: 65

Education: Wake Technical Community College; High Point University

Professional experience: Retired insurance agent and lobbyist; farmer

Political resume: Never held political office; running for insurance commissioner for the fifth time; ran unsuccessfully in the 2014 race for the 6th U.S. House District seat

Family: Married with adult daughter

Website: www.nc4causey.com

Joe McLaughlin

Age: 61

Education: U.S. Air Force Academy; Naval Postgraduate School

Professional experience: Veteran; certified financial planner

Political resume: Served two terms as Onslow County commissioner; ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for the 3rd U.S. House District seat

Family: Married with three adult children

Website: joe4nc.com

Ronald Pierce

Age: 58

Education: No college degree

Professional experience: Veteran; airplane and helicopter mechanic; general contractor; owner of Clear Choice Construction and Piedmont Disaster Services, both based in Charlotte

Political resume: First time running for office

Family: Married with two adult children

Website: www.piercecampaign.com