The primary election for Georgia’s insurance commissioner usually doesn’t make the headlines.
The losing Republican matchup could be another test of the former president’s staying power in Georgia politics in this election year.
John King took office in 2019 after former insurance commissioner Jim Baker was indicted on fraud and money laundering charges. Since then, he has boasted of his track record in restoring the institution’s culture.
King insisted on that message during the Republican primary debate earlier this month.
“I’ve been talking to people who have been neglected for years. I mean, there has been a tradition of people who have no jobs in Georgia,” King said.
Kim’s background includes 17 years as Doraville Police Chief. He was the first Latino to serve statewide in Georgia.
On the debate stage, challenger Patrick Witt spoke about his experience in the administration of the previous president. He served as Trump’s deputy chief of staff and acting chief of staff in the Office of Personnel Management.
“I negotiated with health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance,” he said. “We got the lowest premiums in the last 30 years.”
Witt is also a lawyer. He was part of Trump’s legal team trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Trump has backed his candidacy.
“I think the only reason we’re talking about this is Trump support,” said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.
The typically low-key campaign, he said, has the potential to underscore Trump’s influence over state Republicans on Election Day.
“As far as the establishment is trying to take back the GOP from Donald Trump, if he has a bad day in Georgia, it will help them make the case that one candidate, one hopeful Republican candidates, not necessarily Trump’s choice or even Trump’s, or seeking to support Trump.”
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The Office of the Insurance Commissioner oversees the state’s insurance system and business licensing. It also investigates consumer complaints and helps set insurance policy rates.
Some of these rates are higher than the national average. A report by comparison site bankrate.com found that Georgians pay about $200 more a year for comprehensive auto insurance.
King said he’s focused on lowering insurance rates.
“As a result, we spent a lot of time dealing with many of the requests for premium increases that we rejected because they were not based on loss ratios,” King said during the debate.
Witt also says he’ll work to lower rates if he’s elected in November.
“I support any legislation that lowers costs and increases competition in the marketplace. The issue with Obamacare,” Witt told the debate crowd, “is the government taking over health care, similar to the HB1013 that Mr. King pushed.
The bipartisan bill HB 1013 that passed this legislative session is also known as Mental Health Equity Act. It aims to overhaul the state’s mental health care system and improve insurance coverage for mental health services.
Under the new law, effective July 1, the Insurance Commissioner will be involved in enforcing mental health equity.
Also vying to replace Kim among the Republican candidates is Ben Cowart, who did not participate in the GOP debate.
Democrats are also picking candidates for insurance commissioner. As introduced at the Press Club debate earlier this month, the Democratic primary has three candidates.
“In alphabetical order, they’re business owner Raphael Baker. Janice Laws Robinson is an insurance professional and Matthew Wilson is Georgia’s House Representative for District 80,” the debate moderator said.
Georgia requires candidates to have a majority to win, meaning both races could end in a June runoff between the top two winners.