Edited by Maresa Strano
At the risk of turning The Executive Summary into the bi-weekly political publication equivalent of a clown car, this issue covers a cornucopia of state executive news, election updates, and informational material. With so much happening over the last two weeks, we simply could not leave anything behind.
Tuesday’s primary elections in Missouri and Washington saw some exceptionally crowded top office candidate fields purged of all but a handful of nominees seeking a combined 13 contested state executive seats in 2012. Aside from election results, you’ll find the latest news and developments on the Ohio Superintendent of Education’s dismal report card from state Inspector general, the long-awaited confirmation of an appointed New Jersey Commissioner, and, finally, as tradition would have it, a featured office profile. This week, we discover why the statewide position of Insurance Commissioner is growing increasingly relevant in the age of health care reform.
Elections and filings
This year, 22 states are holding regularly-scheduled state executive official elections. In those elections, a total of 37 state executive seats and 57 down ballot seats are up for election. Wisconsin also held two special recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch on June 5, 2012.
- 15 states have already held primary elections
- Candidate filing periods have closed in 7 other states
- Louisiana has not had yet any deadlines pass
There are five state executive seats up for election this year in Missouri: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. In Tuesday’s primary election, every race except treasurer had at least one contested primary.
Four of the five incumbents are seeking re-election, but only two – Gov. Jay Nixon and Lt. Gov Peter Kinder – faced a primary challenger. Both won their races; Nixon won with approximately 86% of the vote and Kinder edged out Brad Lager by 2.6 points.
The following candidates (pending official certification of the primary results) will advance to the general election:
This year, there are nine state executive offices up for election in Washington: governor, lieutenant governor, Washington, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and public lands commissioner.
Washington uses a “Top 2″ primary system, also known as a blanket primary, in which all candidates run in one race, regardless of party affiliation. Candidates may indicate which party they prefer, but their preference “does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approves of or associates with that candidate.” The two candidates who receive the most votes then advance to the general election.
Incumbents are seeking re-election in five of the nine offices, and all five will advance to the general election. Of the nine state executive primaries, only one was completely uncontested: the race for treasurer. Current treasurer James McIntire was unopposed in the primary and will face no general election opposition.
Voters in Washington do not physically go to a polling place to cast their votes. Voting takes place via mail, and residents had until 8:00 pm on Tuesday, August 7th to cast their primary ballots. Pending official certification of primary results by the secretary of state, here is a complete list of state executive candidates who will advance to the general election:
|Mark your calendar|
|August 15||Vermont campaign finance filing deadline|
|August 17||Louisiana filing deadline|
|August 22||New Hampshire pre-primary report due|
Two seats on the Georgia Public Service Commission are up for election this year. The Republican incumbent who currently holds each seat was challenged in the July 31st primary, and both won with over 55% of the vote. Chuck Eaton will go on to defend his District 3 seat against Democrat Stephen Oppenheimer; Stan Wise in District 5 will face Libertarian David Staples in the general election. Here is a complete list of state executive candidates who will advance to the general election:
Two state executive seats, both on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, are up for election in 2012 in Texas. The Lone-Star State held its primaries on May 29th, but since no candidate in either of the two Republican primaries captured more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters in each race faced off in a runoff election on July 31st. The runoffs resulted in the nominations of incumbent Barry Smitherman and attorney Christi Craddick. Craddick will face Democratic incumbent Dale Henry, Green Party candidate Chris Kennedy and Libertarian Vivekananda Wall for the District 2 seat. Smitherman will defend his seat against Green Party candidate Josh Wendel and Libertarian Jaime Perez in November. Here is a complete list of state executive candidates who will advance to the general election:
Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction resigns over ethics violation
Stan Heffner, the current Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction, may have violated ethics laws, according to a recent investigation report released by the state inspector general. Heffner, while serving as interim superintendent, testified before state lawmakers in favor of House Bill 153, “which required teachers at low-achieving schools retake licensure tests administered by the New Jersey-based company Education Testing Services.” Two weeks earlier, he signed an acceptance letter for a job at ETS that paid $180,000 per year. Heffner did not ultimately accept the job and he has publicly acknowledged his mistake. He initially indicated he had no intention of resigning his post but a few days after the report was released, he formally announced his resignation. “Because I don’t want opponents of reform to be able to twist mistakes I’ve made into roadblocks to Ohio’s reform efforts, I’m stepping aside to deny them even the chance of doing that,” Heffner told the press.
Heffner’s resignation goes into effect on Friday, August 10. Deputy Superintendent Michael Sawyers will take over the position until the State Board of Education, which employs the superintendent, can appoint a permanent replacement.
Auditor recommends changes for Penn State
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner has called for major changes to make Penn State more open and accountable. On July 26, Wagner sent a letter to leaders of the Pennsylvania State Legislature containing several recommendations, each of which would require laws to be changed.
First, Wagner called for the President to be removed as a voting member of the Board of Trustees. Second, the university, along with three other schools, should be subject to right-to-know laws which would require them to make information such as salaries and contracts available to the public. Third, the board’s by-laws, he said, should be changed to require more members be present in order to establish a quorum. Wagner, who is not seeking re-election this year, said his office was preparing a more detailed report on the matter and would release it in the upcoming months.
 New Jersey Commissioner of Education
Although Christopher Cerf had been acting as New Jersey Commissioner of Education since January 18, 2011, he had not been able to utilize the full authority of his office due to his confirmation being held up in committee. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) first appointed Cerf in December 2010 and on July 26, 2012 – some 18 months later – he finally received unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee .
His appointment was held up when state Sen. Ron Rice (D) blocked Cerf without providing a reason, a practice which is known as senatorial courtesy. In response, Christie refused to appoint any new judges in Essex County until Cerf was considered. Cerf’s hearing was further delayed after he said in an interview that he lived in “Montclair,” then corrected himself to say “Montgomery.” While he owned a home in Montclair, he had moved to an apartment in Montgomery. The confusion upset the committee.
Featured office: Insurance Commissioner
|Quick facts about Insurance Commissioners|
The office of Insurance Commissioner is a state level position in all 50 states. There are three ways an individual can be selected for the role of State Insurance Commissioner: He or she can be publicly elected through the state’s standard primary/general election process, appointed by the governor, or appointed by a commission.
The duties of the position vary from state to state, but their general role is as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. Insurance regulation is one of the older state government functions, with most states having insurance departments dating to the late 19th century. Generally speaking, their responsibilities have not changed much since then.
Insurance commissioners have historically spent only a fraction of their time on health insurance, however rising health insurance premiums, along with the passage of President Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act (ACA), portend a critical shift in that ratio. The new law, while federal, does allow the states a significant role, including implementing consumer-based reforms, establishing state-based health exchanges, and keeping insurance rate increases under control. Depending on the state, insurance commissioners will be the key players in such reforms, but confusion over the status of the law is leaving the officers conflicted about how to adapt. While the scope of the ACA remains unclear, it is clear that the issue is reshaping the insurance commissioner’s role.
In 2004, years before the passage of the ACA, Rhode Island, in response to concerns over health care, created the new Office of Health Insurance Commissioner. The new office, the first of its kind in the nation, broke off of the insurance commissioner‘s office in order to more fully address concerns. The first Health Commissioner, Christopher Koller, took office in 2005. It has gone beyond the traditional regulatory role of insurance commissioners to take on a reform role, and may end up providing a model for health insurance regulation.