Democratic state Rep. Matthew Wilson launched a campaign on Wednesday for insurance commissioner that would make him Georgia’s first openly LGBTQ statewide elected official if he wins.
The Brookhaven Democrat is running against Republican incumbent John King, a former police chief and military veteran who made history as the first Hispanic statewide official when he was appointed to the post by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019.
In a splashy video announcement, Wilson highlighted his support for Medicaid expansion that Georgia Republicans have long resisted as too costly, and he pledged to be a consumer advocate who is not “bought and paid for” by powerful insurance companies.
The announcement also nods to Democratic victories in November’s presidential elections and January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, before showing a clip of Wilson on the House floor opposing a “disgraceful” election rewrite that imposed new restrictions on voting.
“I believe what we’ve started can’t be stopped. It’s been too long coming, we’ve gotten too far from the promise that every Georgian – no matter what they look like or where they come from – should be able to thrive,” he said.
Wilson is among a growing list of Democratic state legislators coming out of the General Assembly to run statewide, a group that includes at least a half-dozen lawmakers competing for lieutenant governor, labor commissioner and other posts.
If he wins the Democratic nomination, Wilson would face a politically untested incumbent. When Kemp tapped King to the post in 2019, he was the Doraville police chief and a brigadier general in the U.S. Army National Guard but had no formal insurance experience.
He succeeded Jim Beck, who was indicted a few months after taking office on charges alleging that he swindled his former employer out of $2 million, in part to fund his campaign. He has pleaded not guilty, and taxpayers have spent roughly $400,000 paying Beck’s salary and benefits while he fights the charges.
Though the insurance commissioner is a low-profile job, King’s visibility has grown over the last year as he often joined Kemp in major announcements, including an effort to inform Georgia’s growing Latino population about the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic.
King launched his election campaign earlier this month with a sweep of stops across the state, including a visit to a Cartersville coffee shop where he emphasized his role as a reformer.
“I’ve never shied away from a challenge and I took this one with gusto. The agency was adrift,” he told a small group of local Republican officials. “The governor asked me to clean up the agency, and that’s what we did.”