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Insurance Commissioner

Both Tom Gallagher and John Cosgrove can boast of extensive experience with the state's insurance laws.

By JEFF HARRINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Neither candidate in the race for Florida insurance commissioner is the incumbent, but both are well-versed in insurance issues.

Republican nominee Tom Gallagher, now the state's education commissioner, ran the state's insurance department in the early 1990s. Democratic nominee John Cosgrove, a state representative from Miami, was previously chairman of the House Insurance Committee and had personal experience with the worst insurance disaster in Florida history when his Perrine home was leveled by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Neither Cosgrove nor Gallagher faced opposition in the primaries, seeking the seat being vacated by Democrat Bill Nelson, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Gallagher, a perennial candidate for state office, planned to run for the Senate before party bosses persuaded him to step aside and seek the insurance commissioner job instead. He contends his previous stint as commissioner will be invaluable, given the shortened, two-year term for whoever is elected.

Both candidates would like to see homeowners coverage contained in a single policy wherever possible.

Cosgrove was one of the architects of the state-run catastrophe fund, created after Hurricane Andrew to help pay damage claims from major storms and limit the liability of insurers. He calls for dismantling the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association, the state pool that provides windstorm coverage to hurricane-prone homes on both coasts.

In the health care arena, Cosgrove has proposed a statewide prescription drug program and an expanded health insurance program for children.

Gallagher wants to work with the Legislature in devising a better way to deal with property insurance. Among other issues, he wants to improve the market for small businesses seeking insurance.

Cosgrove's Web site details his proposals; Gallagher's Web site is devoted to biographical information and polls that show him with a comfortable lead.

Neither candidate is focusing much on issues in his mass media advertising.

Cosgrove kicked off his TV campaign with a commercial citing past investigations into Gallagher by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI. Gallagher has not been charged with a crime or ethics violation as a result, but Cosgrove has called for releasing records of the probes.

Gallagher's campaign responded with commercials focused on the candidate's experience and strong statewide name recognition.

THE JOB

The Florida insurance commissioner and treasurer regulates fire, casualty, liability and windstorm insurance rates and approves all policy forms. As treasurer, the Cabinet position also oversees the state's bank accounts and pension funds. The commissioner elected in November will serve two years. After that, the two Cabinet jobs of insurance commissioner and comptroller will both be phased out as Florida converts to an elected post of chief financial officer. The job pays $116,056 a year.

REPUBLICAN

TOM GALLAGHER, 56, is commissioner of education for Florida, a Cabinet post. He served in the state House from 1974 to 1986, and then was appointed secretary of the state Department of Professional Regulation. He was Florida's insurance commissioner from 1989 to 1994. He ran a Tallahassee consulting firm and was a legislative lobbyist during a brief respite from public office. This is his sixth campaign for statewide office. Since 1986, he has run twice before for insurance commissioner and won; and twice for governor and lost. A Delaware native, Gallagher moved to Florida in 1961 and earned a business degree from the University of Miami. He is married and has one son. ASSETS: yacht company, real estate company and homes, condominiums and apartments in Tallahassee and Miami. LIABILITIES: various mortgages and loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: state salary, rental income, investments. WEB SITE: http://www.gallagher2000.com.

DEMOCRAT

JOHN F. COSGROVE, 51, is a state representative from Miami. He was first elected to the House in 1980 and served until 1984 and then from 1986 to the present. Cosgrove was previously chairman of the House Insurance Committee. He sits on several committees, including the consumer affairs council and criminal justice and corrections council. An attorney in Miami, Cosgrove is also vice president of Camelot Care Center, a patient care/adult living facility. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1972 and received his law degree from Cumberland Law School in 1975. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: real estate, investments. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: law firm, health care center, investments. WEB SITE: http://www.cosgrove2000.com.

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