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Pinellas County man inches closer to becoming Florida's next state insurance commissioner

It's looking more and more like Florida's next insurance commissioner will be Pinellas County resident Jeffrey Bragg.

That became clearer on Thursday afternoon when Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recommended only two of the 55 candidates who applied for the post get a follow-up, and likely final, interview before Gov. Rick Scott and the full Florida Cabinet on Tuesday.

Atwater recommended just Bragg and State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, get the final interview with a vote expected that same day. But for Hager, Iowa's former insurance commissioner, to win the appointment, he has to win the support of both Atwater and Scott. But on Wednesday, Scott's office recommended only Bragg be brought back for a final interview. The full cabinet appoints the next insurance commissioner, but Scott and Atwater must be in agreement and on the prevailing side of the vote. 

Earlier this week, Hager and Bragg had private telephone interviews with Scott, yet Scott's only advanced Bragg's name.

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office on Tuesday recommended Hager be added to the public interview list after Scott's office recommended Bragg. Officials for Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam did not recommend any additional names beyond Bragg and Hager.

Bragg, a 67-year-old Republican, ran the nation's terrorism risk insurance program from 2003 until his retirement in 2014. In the early 1980s, he worked under the Reagan Administration, serving in the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he was the administrator for the national flood insurance program. 

Between those appointments, Bragg worked in the private sector, including as a senior vice president for Zurich Risk Management from 2001 to 2003 and as executive vice president for IMSG in St. Petersburg from 1997 to 2000. 

Bragg and Hager are seeking to replace Florida insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty, who has held the post for 13 years. McCarty announced in January that he was resigning effective May 2. 

With the pool of candidates down to Bragg and Hager, what is certain is that none of the four internal candidates will get the post. McCarty's chief of state at the Office of Insurance Regulation, two deputy commissioners and his chief actuary all applied for the post. Atwater interviewed all four, but none were recommended for the public interview before the full cabinet.

Former insurance commissioners or deputy commissioners from Alabama, Nevada, Tennessee, Illinois, and Missouri were among other candidates who applied for Florida's post, which pays up to $200,000.