North Dakota Dems Endorse Schneider for Insurance Commissioner

April 7, 2008

Jasper Schneider remembers attending Democratic conventions as a small boy with his father, John, a former House Democratic leader and U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration.

The 28-year-old was on stage himself, beginning his first statewide campaign for insurance commissioner, saying he would use the job to encourage health insurance coverage for children and push for oversight of North Dakota’s workers’ compensation agency.

“We need to keep finding ways to bring about affordable and quality health care for all North Dakotans, starting with our children,” he said. “We have upwards of 15,000 kids in North Dakota who go about their day, every single day, without health coverage. In my mind, that is 15,000 too many.”

Schneider spoke to more than 700 Democratic convention delegates and a steadily increasing number of people in the Alerus Center’s football seats, who were filing in to hear later speeches by Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

About 6,000 people were in the stands when Schneider began his acceptance speech. One group began waving large individual letters, spelling out O-B-A-M-A, as Schneider finished his address.

“This is a little bigger crowd than I’m used to speaking to,” said one of Schneider’s nominating speakers, state Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson.

Schneider, a Fargo attorney, was elected to the North Dakota House in 2006. He is in the middle of his first four-year term.

He is opposing Republican Adam Hamm, a former Fargo attorney and county prosecutor whom Gov. John Hoeven appointed to the job last October. Hamm succeeded Jim Poolman, who resigned to begin his own insurance consulting business.

Schneider represents injured workers in legal disputes with the Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, which provides workers’ compensation coverage for businesses.

He and Hamm both support proposals that would allow the state Insurance Department to license and regulate the agency, which has been in frequent turmoil during the past two years.

Workforce Safety’s board of directors recently hired Bruce Furness, a former Fargo mayor, to run the agency as a temporary chief executive while they search for a permanent successor to Sandy Blunt, who was forced out in December as WSI’s director.

Schneider promised to push for “increased political accountability for an agency that, frankly, doesn’t have any.”

“Every single day on the job, I speak to dozens of new injured workers, from all corners of the state,” Schneider said. “As much as their facts are all different, their stories are all the same. People are getting passed over. People are struggling.”

Schneider was the only statewide candidate endorsed by Democratic convention delegates on the opening day of their state convention.

They are picking favored candidates for six more contests including a contest for governor, which matches Fargo state Sen. Tim Mathern against the House’s Democratic minority leader, Merle Boucher, of Rolette. The other races are unopposed.

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