Alaska Governor’s Race To Affect Insurance Climate

November 6, 2006

Alaska’s and Idaho’s gubenatorial races could affect the insurance climate in those states. In Alaska in particular, it could lead to “unfortunate” changes, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

One-term Gov. Frank Murkowski was defeated in Alaska’s primary, forcing Alaskans to elect a new governor. On Nov. 7, three candidates will face-off: Republican Sarah Palin, former mayor of Wasilla, Andrew Halcro, a former Republican state legislator, who is running as an Independent, and Democrat Tony Knowles, who served two terms as governor. Whoever wins will have authority to appoint a new insurance director, which could mean bad news for the industry.

The current appointed Insurance “Director Linda Hall is highly regarded by legislators and the industry. She has improved the state’s insurance climate by helping pass personal lines flex rating in 2005 and defeating anti-workers compensation legislation in 2006,” according to PCI.

Going in to Tuesday’s election, Palin is trying to hold on to her front-runner status in a race that has shown every sign of tightening, according to the Associated Press. The wild card is independent candidate Andrew Halcro, a former Republican legislator who could draw votes from both the Republican and Democratic candidates.

With so much at stake, the candidates are collecting and spending campaign contributions in the hopes of swaying voters. Democrat Tony Knowles reported raising more than half a million dollars from Oct. 7 through Oct. 28, and his Republican opponent, Sarah Palin, brought in $413,843 in that period.

Candidates for state office were required to file campaign finance disclosure reports Tuesday. From now on, they will have to file 24-hour reports for any additional contributions above $250.

Knowles and running mate Ethan Berkowitz have raised a combined $1.4 million this election cycle from more than 4,100 contributors, the Knowles campaign reported.

Knowles has spent $467,394 since Oct. 6, the end of the last reporting period. Of those expenditures, $315,554 went to media advertising through the Washington, D.C., firm Squier Knapp and Dunn.

Palin, who spent nearly all the money she raised before the Aug. 22 primary in that bruising three-way election, has since raised more than $767,000.

Palin has spent $334,231 since Oct. 6, with $255,000 of that going to media buys through the Anchorage firm Walsh Sheppard Flynn.

Halcro had not filed his campaign finance report with the Alaska Public Offices Commission by last Tuesday evening.

In Idaho, PCI said, “Former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) left office to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior and appointed Gov. Jim Risch (R), who is not seeking election in November. When Kempthorne left office, Insurance Director Gary Smith went with him to
Washington, D.C., and Risch did not name a successor. Idaho’s next governor – likely front-runner U.S. Rep. Butch Otter (R) – will appoint a new insurance regulator. Most recent polling data has Otter ahead.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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