Twelve more people have filed to be Florida's next insurance commissioner since Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater deadlocked over the issue last month, but there are no indications either is closer to agreeing on a successor to longtime commissioner Kevin McCarty.
On March 29 at the last meeting of Florida's 4-member cabinet, Scott and Atwater could not agree on a single candidate for the job. Under state law, the elected CFO and governor must both agree on who the state's insurance commissioner will be. With no resolution in sight, the Cabinet agreed to re-open the application process with an eye toward trying against to vote on an insurance commissioner at their next meeting, which is on April 26.
At the last meeting, Atwater recommended state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, for the position, which pays up to $200,000 a year. Scott refused to agree with Atwater and has instead supported Pinellas County resident Jeffrey Bragg for the position.
Bragg, a former U.S. Treasury official who ran the nation's terrorism risk insurance program under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told the Times/Herald that he's still pressing forward hoping to get the position.
"I do remain interested in the position," said Bragg, a Safety Harbor resident.
Hager, vice chairman of the Florida House Banking and Insurance Committee and a former Iowa insurance commissioner, isn't giving up either. In an interview on Friday, Hager said he's "100 percent committed" to getting the position.
McCarty announced earlier this year that he is resigning as Florida Insurance Commissioner effective May 2. McCarty has been the insurance commissioner for more than 12 years.
Hager and Bragg were the only two candidates out of the original 55 that the cabinet agreed to bring in for a final interview at their March 29 meeting.
Besides Bragg and Hager, those 55 candidates included top state insurance regulators from Missouri, Nevada, Illinois, Alabama and Tennessee. Of the 12 latest candidates, most have private insurance market experience but none have lead another state's insurance commission office, though one candidate, Michael Bownes served for 16 years as general counsel for Alabama's Department of Insurance. Four candidates on the list currently work in the upper ranks of Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation, including McCarty's chief of staff Belinda Miller, chief actuary Eric Johnson, and deputy commissioners Rich Robleto and David Altmaier. Those four were all interviewed privately by Atwater, but none were brought back for a public interview at the March cabinet meeting.