Even though Tim Temple has 20 years of insurance industry experience, a university political science professor says his challenge in unseating Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon will be building a name for himself.
Temple, a state representative from Baton Rouge, is challenging Louisiana’s long-serving Republican insurance commissioner in the Oct. 12 GOP primary. Temple says he is running because he is unhappy with how Donelon has been helming the Louisiana Department of Insurance. He says that Donelon has done very little in reducing insurance rates and has not campaigned to bring other insurance companies into the state.
Dr. G. Pearson Cross, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, says running for state office is all about relationships. Cross teaches state and local government, with an emphasis on redistricting, elections, and southern political culture. He also is the chair of the General Education Committee and the Constitution Day Committee.
“Running for statewide office in Louisiana requires a significant commitment in resources to be successful,” Cross said. “Challenges for this position are typically more about perceptions of weakness in the incumbent, mismanagement of the office itself, scandal, or ambition on the part of the challenger, given that any statewide position may be a springboard to higher office.”
Donelon has received criticism from many on his tenure as insurance commissioner and unwavering insurance rates. Even if it’s unfair that it all falls on his shoulders, Cross said, the public only sees and wants results.
“The state’s high insurance premiums are produced by a number of factors that may not be within the commissioner’s ability to change,” he said. “However, that reality is likely to produce candidates who would like to blame the commissioner for not doing enough, or to suggest that they’d do better.”
Cross noted that most citizens do not have the political knowledge to criticize a politician's actions with nuance. A good campaign comes down to familiarity.
“The fact that Tim Temple is a Republican indicates the opportunities available for electoral success in Louisiana, which is a conservative state with a Republican majority in House and Senate,” Cross said. “Ultimately, Temple’s success in his challenge will depend on his ability to gain name recognition and convince voters that they should change one Republican office-holder for another.”