During a campaign stop at a meeting of the Scotland County Democratic Women on Friday, state Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin stressed the importance of state-level elections.
“People pay attention to national races and local races, and the state is sort of caught in between,” Goodwin said. “You hear every election is the most important election in our lifetime, but I will tell you this: it’s true this time, because there’s so much riding on it when you’re talking about what’s going on nationally, what’s going on on the state level, and of course locally too.”
Goodwin, a native of Hamlet, was elected as the state commissioner of insurance in 2008, and is running for reelection this year against Republican Mike Causey. An attorney, Goodwin has also served four terms in the state House of Representatives, representing Scotland, Richmond, Stanly, and Montgomery counties.
“I served in the legislature with him for four terms and I found Wayne to be a man of integrity, and he’s going to do what he tells you he’s going to do and he’s going to look after the interests of all of his constituents, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats,” said former state Rep. Doug Yongue of Laurinburg. “We enjoyed him in the legislature; he was one of the most respected members up there.”
Goodwin encouraged the 30 Democrats present to vote for party members in the North Carolina Council of State: the offices of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of labor, superintendent of public instruction, state treasurer, and state auditor. Of those nine offices, seven are currently held by Democrats.
He also attributed the Republican majorities in the General Assembly to a lackluster Democratic turnout in 2010.
“I’ll be blunt, Democrats sat on their hands,” said Goodwin. “If we’d had the same turnout in 2010 that we had in 2008, we would have kept the House of Representatives. We probably would have kept the Senate.”
Depicting his job as a “balancing act,” Goodwin said that the insurance commissioner’s role is to protect consumers from predatory insurance policies while attracting insurance companies to business in North Carolina.
“My job is to make sure that consumers are protected from excessive insurance rates, make sure that they have access to affordable insurance and competition and a choice among insurance products, and to make sure that we are able to be free from the fraudulent activity that you know will be out there when you’ve got people dealing with money,” Goodwin said. “My job is to also make sure that insurance companies want to do business here, to make sure they choose North Carolina because insurance companies mean jobs. My job is also to make sure that these companies have a fair and reasonable playing field.”
The commissioner of insurance also ensures that companies are financially able to pay on client’s claims.
“Part of my job is to make sure these companies have enough money in reserves that they’re solvent, and if they break the law or go belly-up, then we’re there to pick up the pieces and protect all of us the policyholders,” said Goodwin.
One of the primary points of contention between Goodwin and his opponent is that Causey would seek to lift some of the existing regulations on insurance companies operating in North Carolina.
“He wants to open the door to any insurance company coming here, and there are a bunch of insurance companies in other states that I would never want to have do business here because they take your money, don’t respond to complaints and they’ve been fined and penalized for breaking laws in those other states,” Goodwin said.
During his term as commissioner, Goodwin has seen a 20 percent increase in the number of insurance companies in North Carolina while also saving the state $1.4 billion by cracking down on fraud, he said.