Insurance Commissioner seeks third term
Published February 8, 2024
By John Hood
If incumbent Mike Causey wins the Republican nod for insurance commissioner in March, it’ll be his seventh nomination. That will break the current record of six nominations for insurance commissioner — a record currently shared by Causey and the late Jim Long, a Democrat.
That’s just in the primary, though. All six times Long was nominated, beginning in 1984, he won the general election. Of Causey’s six runs — 1992, 1996, 2000, 2012, 2016, and 2020 — he was victorious in only the last two.
While all 50 states have insurance commissioners, North Carolina is one of just 11 that elect their commissioners. The office is primarily a regulatory one, not only overseeing the wide spectrum of insurance policies and annuities sold in our state but also licensing such professionals as agents, adjusters, bail bondsmen, and home inspectors.
Before his election in 2016, Causey owned an insurance agency and other businesses, and worked for the NC Department of Transportation. On his campaign site, he argues that “more competition in North Carolina’s insurance industry will provide lower rates for consumers and greater access to better products.”
One of his rivals for the GOP nomination, former state Rep. Robert Brawley, is also an insurance professional and served off and on for two decades in the North Carolina House. In 2004, he was the Republican nominee for insurance commissioner, losing to Long. In 2016, he unsuccessfully challenged then-Gov. Pat McCrory in the GOP primary. Among Brawley’s priorities are enhancing building code safety and “maintaining fair competition in the insurance industry.”
In recent weeks, Brawley has called for a financial audit of the Department of Insurance and criticized Causey’s practice of hiring friends and political allies as personal aides and department officials. As first reported by the News & Observer of Raleigh, critics question the value and efficiency of Causey’s regional offices, though he calls them “a good way to serve the public without people having to drive all the way to Raleigh.”
A third candidate in the GOP primary, Andrew Marcus, has worked as a prosecutor, firefighter, and insurance regulator. A first-time candidate, he advocates a crackdown on insurance fraud, more price transparency and competition, and investigating any Chinese Communist Party involvement in insurers doing business in the state.
The insurance commissioner “should work for you, not for the insurance companies or for political cronies,” Marcus says. “But that’s not the case today and that’s why your rates are increasing year after year.”
One of two candidates for the Democratic nomination is Natasha Marcus (no relation to Andrew). Currently serving her third term as a state senator from Mecklenburg County, she’s a former litigator who worked at an anti-poverty organization before embarking on her political career.
“My mission has always been to stand up against corruption, corporate greed, and bad government,” Sen. Marcus says. “We need a commissioner who will be on the side of the people, not corporations.” She’s been endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and many of her Democratic colleagues in the General Assembly, as well as the Sierra Club and the state’s AFL-CIO.
Her primary opponent is David Wheeler, a small-business owner and former staffer for the North Carolina Secretary of State. He’s campaigning vigorously against proposed increases in homeowners insurance rates.
“No one in Raleigh is fighting to keep the rates down,” Wheeler says, “and the current commissioner is dependent upon insurance industry campaign cash.” Indeed, he calls Causey “Rate Hike Mike” and, like Brawley, has criticized Causey’s hiring practices and use of a state car to commute to Raleigh from Greensboro. Wheeler also pledges to resolve insurance-claim disputes in 60 days and create programs to reduce or forgive medical debt. Among his endorsers is former state Rep. Patsy Keever.
All five of these candidates maintain campaign websites where you can read more about their backgrounds, endorsements, and positions on issues pertinent to the Department of Insurance. Early voting for North Carolina’s March primaries begins on Feb. 15.