The four Democrats running for Delaware Insurance Commissioner faced off Tuesday night at a forum hosted by the Civic League for New Castle County.
The state’s Department of Insurance is meant to protect consumers and allow the insurance industry to serve the public and businesses.
Karen Weldin Stewart, who currently holds the position, is seeking reelection.
“My employees are trained professionals,” she said.
One of her opponents, Paul Gallagher, did not fully agree and said that he would get better training for the people who answer the phones in the commissioner’s office.
“They are not licensed agents,” Gallagher said. “I would get agents licensed to learn the ins and outs of people’s policies.”
The candidates, who also include Mitch Crane and Denis Spivack, were asked what they would do to improve the office and their thoughts on a recent veto by Gov. Jack Markell.
Stewart said that her office is currently moving in the direction of transparency and that in the past year, she has saved Delaware consumers $1.4 million.
All four candidates said that the consumers were the primary focus of the office.
Crane said that if he were elected he would end discrimination against senior drivers and recruit more insurance companies.
The job of the office, as Gallagher said he understands it, is to protect consumers against fraud.
“The consumers are most important,” Stewart said. “We are your advocate.”
The other question Civic League President Chuck Mulholland asked the candidates stumped half of them.
Without giving the worded title of the bill, he asked what their thoughts on Markell’s recent veto on HB 387 were.
The bill, which was struck down by the governor earlier this month, would have given retirees from the City of Wilmington Police and Fire Departments in closed pension plans biennial direct payments from the state.
“The payments, which will average more than $5,000 at first, and could grow substantially beyond that, are not pension increases,” Markell said in a letter Aug. 17 to the General Assembly. “Instead, they are direct payments from a fund created with state tax dollars that was originally intended to fund pension increases.”
Spivack said that it was such a microscopic issue that was dealt with by the general assembly and said it was one of the reasons the state needs a strong insurance commissioner – so that health care plans do not get caught in the middle of politics.
The winner of the September primary election will go up against Republican Mobley Benjamin, of Middletown, and Libertarian Eisenhower David, of Lewes, in November’s general election.