Georgia to Decide New Insurance Commissioner

August 10, 2010

Georgia voters head to the polls today to participate in a runoff election in which they must choose between two Republican candidates for state insurance commissioner.

The two candidates, Maria Sheffield and Ralph T. Hudgens, are the two survivors from last months Republican primary, which included nine candidates. In that vote, each of the two received about twenty percent of the vote.

Last week, both Sheffield and Hudgens tried to distance themselves from John Oxendine, the current insurance commissioner, whose term is clouded by questions about his ethics. He has just failed at running for governor, during which campaign he took contributions from insurance companies.

Hudgens said Oxendine has done a good job as commissioner and he was not going to “pass judgment” on Oxendine actions in the gubernatorial campaign, while Sheffield said that ethics in government is “extremely important” to her. She also tried to prove that Oxendine and Hudgens had a relationship that included a $500 donation from Oxendine to Hudgens when the latter was running for re-election to the Georgia General Assembly two years ago.

A major issue in the insurance commissioner race is federal health care reform. Sheffield, an attorney who has worked in Georgia’s Department of Insurance, says she’ll work to mitigate the affect of the new federal laws on her state. Hudgens, who currently chairs the Georgia Senate’s Insurance and Labor Committee, maintains that the insurance commissioner has no authority over the new mandates. He says the position is merely administrative.

The winner of this Republican run-off will face Democrat Mary Squires in the November election.