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Dale discusses campaign controversy in club talk

Insurance Commissioner George Dale entertained and informedBrookhaven Lions Club members Tuesday, while also addressing somerecent controversy surrounding his campaign for another term inoffice.

Dale is currently running for his ninth term and is already thelongest-serving insurance commissioner in the country. He hasrecently been embroiled in issues involving his membership in theDemocratic Party, which did not want him on their ballot after hisadmitted support of President George Bush. After some legalwrangling, Dale is on the ballot as a Democrat.

“As the late Will Rogers said, ‘I’m in no organized party. I’m aDemocrat,'” he said. “And that’s the best way to express where Istand.”

Dale said the recent debate over his political affiliation,during which he had to fight with his own party to be allowed onthe ballot, has put him in an interesting position.

“Now I’ve gotta go back to the same people I beat in court totry to get them to vote for me,” he said, laughing. “If that’s notswimming upstream, I don’t know what is.”

He said he had stuck to his guns, however, because the historyof the Democratic Party is something he’s dedicated his lifeto.

“I’d like to go out the same way I came in, even though theparty has long since left my views,” said Dale, saying at thispoint he’s sympathetic to stands taken by both the Democrats andthe Republicans.

“I have strong views on some of the Democratic issues,” he said.”But I also feel strongly about less government, too.”

Dale also spoke of the drama surrounding the insurance claimsafter Hurricane Katrina. He said officials are fighting the samebattles they did after Hurricane Katrina.

“After Camille, they published a 324-page report that said wewere going to one day have a storm bigger than Camille. And whatare we doing now? Still fighting over wind vs. water,” he said.”I’m convinced if we don’t keep up with history, we will keeprepeating our mistakes.”

Dale said reports that sound as if none of the victims ofKatrina are getting their insurance settlements are extremelyoverblown, as only 1 percent of the claims filed have not yet beenaddressed.

“Nothing in our history compares to the devastation of Katrina,”he said. “And I made a terrible mistake when I told the media thatsome people would not have their claims paid because theirinsurance policies didn’t cover different aspects of the damage,because they jumped on that.”

Dale said he felt one of his primary responsibilities in thewake of the storm has been to get every possible claim paid.

“In the state, we’ve paid out $11.9 billion in claims related toKatrina,” he said. “And $8.2 billion of that is on the coast.”

Meanwhile, he said, reconstructing a coastline on whichresidents can get and afford insurance will be a challenge.

“Providing an insurance market on the coast is entirely morepressing an issue,” he said. “And someone has to ask, ‘Should we beallowed to live anywhere we want, even if it’s in harm’s way?'”

Dale asked the crowd if they thought it made sense to asktaxpayers to bear the financial burden when the choice of livinglocation puts people in potential jeopardy.

“Should we make insurance companies write policies on people whoare living in harm’s way?” said Dale as he posed the hypotheticalquestion. “Think about the Mississippi Gulf Coast and all thefederal dollars pumped into it after Katrina.”

He pointed out that Mississippi had advantages in dealing withthe Katrina situation that other states don’t necessarily have.

“It didn’t hurt that our governor had the keys to the back doorof the White House, or that Sen. Thad Cochran was the head of theAppropriations Committee. But what about these other states thatdon’t have those things working for them?”

On another note entirely, Dale expressed his happiness in beingback in Brookhaven.

“I love Brookhaven,” he said. “A lot of my very fond memoriesare here. My first official act as a junior high school footballcoach at Moss Point was to scout a game in Brookhaven in Septemberof 1962.”