In a special statewide election held on Sept. 30, Louisiana insurance commissioner, James J. Donelon, overcame a low voter turnout and the exigencies of the Louisiana insurance situation to retain the position of commissioner, according to wire reports.
Flooded with a deluge of nasty attack ads and whipped up with blasts of insinuations, the campaign was hard-fought by Donelon. He took 50.1 percent of the vote and avoided a November runoff. Republican State Sen. James David Cain won 39 percent of the vote. Turned-off voters in some cases pulled the lever for a third candidate, Libertarian insurance broker S.B.A. Zaitoon, to the tune of 11 percent of the votes.
According to wire reports, the secretary of state's office announced that turnout was the lowest for a statewide ballot in at least 10 years.
About 20 percent of Louisiana's 2.9 million voters participated. Competition from college football games around the state might have played a role.
The turnout figures could be seen as surprising considering that the state is in the throes of such insurance issues as the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, premium hikes, fleeing carriers, court cases and coverage disputes.
As Barry Erwin, head of the nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana, put it, the state has some critical insurance issues at the moment now, yet the campaigns failed to talk much about those issues. Instead, the politicians engaged in mudslinging, he said in a published report.
Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, blamed the voter apathy in part on the little-known candidates and the disconcerting traditions of the commissioner's office, according to published reports. Three former commissioners served sentences in federal prison for crimes related to the office.
Voters were electing a commissioner to serve the final year of Robert Wooley's term. He resigned last February to take a job with a private law firm. As Wooley's chief assistant, Donelon filled the post until the election.
December 1, 2006
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