Tim Temple will be Louisiana’s next insurance commissioner after Rich Weaver, a political unknown who was the only other candidate, dropped out of that race Wednesday.
Temple, a Republican who spent 20 years in the insurance business, will in January succeed Jim Donelon, who has held the job since his election in 2006 and chose not to run for a fifth full term this year.
Temple will inherit a thorny set of issues, with the homeowners’ insurance market in turmoil in south Louisiana after four hurricanes slammed Louisiana in 2020 and 2021. Homeowners, particularly those who live in coastal areas, are complaining about skyrocketing insurance rates.
In the last two years, nine property insurance companies that did business in Louisiana went insolvent. Five of them were based in Florida, which has been undergoing an insurance crisis.
Meanwhile, car and commercial truck owners are moaning about car insurance rates that are among the highest in the country. In 2020, the Legislature passed a measure making it harder for people injured in wrecks to sue, with the goal of reducing car insurance rates. Instead, rates have continued to climb.
How to make insurance more affordable across the board has emerged as a major issue this election cycle.
Disagreeing with Donelon, Temple has vowed to make it easier for insurance companies to set their homeowner rates, arguing that freeing the industry will encourage more companies to enter Louisiana’s market.
“We have to create a marketplace in Louisiana so that companies want to come back,” Temple, 53, said at one point during the campaign. “When they compete, that’s when you see premiums come down.”
One key issue for Temple is whether he will support lawmakers who want to scrap a Donelon policy in which Louisiana is the only state in the country that prevents an insurer from dropping a homeowner who has been with that insurer for the previous three years.
Donelon pushed a plan this year that state legislators and Gov. John Bel Edwards approved that will pay grants to insurance companies that could total $55 million to entice them to write policies in the state, with the hope that private firms will cover some of those now insured by Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state insurer of last resort.
The companies have to match the state grant to qualify for the subsidy and write new premiums worth twice the amount of the grant plus the matching funds. Donelon has said it’s the best hope for pulling homeowners out of Citizens, which is more costly than private coverage. He has said that a similar plan worked after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, although the evidence is mixed.
Temple praised the Legislature this year for approving $30 million in grants to fortify homes, with the aim that this would lower insurance rates.
In a measure of the commissioner’s authority, Donelon has to decide whether to approve the sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, the state’s largest insurer with 1.9 million policyholders, to a company based in Indiana.
Temple is from DeRidder but now lives in Baton Rouge where he runs a family-owned investment management business. His father Aubrey Temple was a long-time insurance company owner who for 20 years chaired the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, which provides workers comp insurance to businesses.
Weaver, a medical malpractice adjuster, faced overwhelming odds against Temple. He qualified to run as a Democrat and was a political unknown, having never sought office before. He did not raise any money.
Temple, on the other hand, loaned his campaign $2 million for the race. He also spent $2 million when he ran and lost against Donelon in four years ago.
On Tuesday, Weaver said he would probably drop out of the race because Temple was planning to try to disqualify him by saying Weaver did not meet a state residency requirement and hadn’t paid his taxes as required.
“None of it is factual,” Weaver said. “But I don’t have the funds to defend it.”
Until the recent turbulence, Donelon had overseen a return to normalcy for Louisiana’s homeowner insurance policies after hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed the state in 2005, and he brought stability to a department that saw three of his four predecessors go to prison.
Temple becomes the second statewide elected official to win election this year without having to contest the Oct. 14 primary. Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain won outright because no one challenged him after qualifying ended on Thursday.
Alice J. Roden started working for Trending Insurance News at the end of 2021. Alice grew up in Salt Lake City, UT. A writer with a vast insurance industry background Alice has help with several of the biggest insurance companies. Before joining Trending Insurance News, Alice briefly worked as a freelance journalist for several radio stations. She covers home, renters and other property insurance stories.