Democrat bashes absent opponent in insurance commissioner debate

Janice Laws Robinson appears at a debate for the Democratic nomination for Georgia insurance and safety fire commissioner. Her runoff opponent, Raphael Baker, chose not to attend.

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Janice Laws Robinson appears at a debate for the Democratic nomination for Georgia insurance and safety fire commissioner. Her runoff opponent, Raphael Baker, chose not to attend.

Democrat Janice Laws Robinson on Monday pledged, if elected, to restore integrity to the scandal-plagued office of Georgia insurance and safety fire commissioner.

Laws Robinson made the remarks at a debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club in advance of a June 21 runoff. Her opponent, Raphael Baker, skipped the debate, leaving Laws Robinson facing off against an empty podium.

The two were the top vote-getters in Georgia’s May 24 primary, but neither cleared the needed 50% benchmark to claim the Democratic nomination. Both work in the insurance industry.

Laws Robinson said she would tackle Georgia’s high auto insurance costs by working to repeal a state law that prevents the insurance commissioner from blocking many rate increases.

The law, she said, “allows insurance companies to charge anything they want.”

Repealing the law would require approval, however, from the state Legislature, which is expected to remain in GOP hands.

She also said she would create a new post in her office to oversee health issues and prioritize mental health care required as part of a sweeping law that state lawmakers approved during this year’s session.

Laws Robinson said Baker’s failure to appear at Monday’s faceoff showed he wasn’t serious about the job

“He will not show up for this debate, and he will not show up for you,” she said.

The winner of the runoff will face incumbent John King in November. King was named to the post by Gov. Brian Kemp after his immediate predecessor, Jim Beck, was indicted on charges he swindled money from a former employer. Beck is serving seven years and three months in a federal prison.

Laws Robinson was the Democratic nominee in 2018 but lost to Beck by 3 percentage points.