Roy Barnes? Sam Olens? Rob Teilhet?
Nope. Stephen Northington.
Northington, 40, an independent insurance agent in Cobb County and a political novice, is running for Insurance Commissioner, a post being vacated by John Oxendine, who is seeking the Republic gubernatorial nomination
Actually, "Insurance Commissioner" is a misnomer. A more apt title would be Georgia Commissioner of Insurance; Safety Fire Commissioner; Industrial Loan Commissioner; Comptroller General and Most Anything Else You Can Think Of. There is more potential power in that office than a Cobb EMC substation.
You are regulating and licensing the small-loan industry as well as insurance companies and all the details that go with those responsibilities, including the opportunity for a political contribution from insurance companies and loan companies every now and then. (Wink! Wink!)
There is also a lot of opportunity to get your picture in the paper. Every time there is a fire in town, you can expect to see John Oxendine somewhere around the debris. At one time, he had a blue light on his car like the police, but some wiser souls put a stop to that after he ran a red light and caused a fender-bender rushing, I guess, to get his picture in the paper.
Northington is competing with 10 other hopefuls, including two current state senators, a state representative, a former legislator, a couple of insurance agents, a mayor, a magistrate judge, a self-described "political activist" and a Libertarian.
I was curious as to why a guy from Cobb County not named Barnes, Olens or Teilhet was seeking one of the top jobs in the state even though he has never held public office, so I called him up and asked him.
"I'll give you the same answer I gave a moderator at one of our recent political forums," Northington said. "He asked each of the candidates to explain in three words why they are running. Everybody hemmed and hawed. When they got to me, I said, 'That's easy. I am crazy.'"
On a more serious note, the Cobb County man said he has discovered how grueling political campaign can be.
What is the hardest part? "There are two," he says, "Raising money and being away from the family. I have put 40,000 miles on my car traveling around the state this year. My wife is used to having me around the house since I work out of my home," Northington said, "and now I am away for long periods of time. That is very hard."
Northington says that money is an issue because a lot of friends in the insurance business have had a tough couple of years and are not able to donate as much as they and he would like. As of this writing, State Ethics Commission filings show him with about $17,000. One opponent, Sen. Ralph Hudgens of Hull, has raised over $250,000. Clearly, Northington has an uphill battle.
You may not like it, but money talks in politics. Former Cobb County State Rep. Roger Hines recently dropped out of the race for state school superintendent because of an inability to raise money.
Northington says the state insurance commissioner is going to be a key player in dealing with some of the Obama health care reform program to be administered in the state. Oxendine has already opted not to comply with a federal request to create a state pool for high-risk insurance plans meaning the federal government, not Georgia, will oversee the distribution of certain federal health care funds in the state.
"There will be other such issues, and as insurance commissioner I think I am in the best position to deal with both health care reform and on such issues as purchasing insurance in multi-state pools which would mean more federal regulation," Northington adds.
Final question: As a newcomer to the political process, would you do it again?
"Yes, I would," Northington vows, "but I would do it a lot smarter. Political campaigning is tougher than I realized."
"But," he adds, "I have enjoyed every minute of it and would encourage others - particularly young people - to get involved." Win or lose, he is walking his talk.
Sometimes, you just have to root for the underdog.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.