Insurance Commissioner candidates have widely varying visions for office

Three are vying for the office of Republican incumbent Adam Hamm, who chose not to seek another term. The North Dakota Insurance Department has a 2015-17 budget of more than $11.5 million and nearly 50 staff.

Jon Godfread, Republican

Jon Godfread, 33, aims to create an environment in the Insurance Commissioner’s office to work with providers to improve affordability of insurance, competition in the marketplace and accessibility.

Godfread, vice president of governmental affairs for the Greater North Dakota Chamber, said he’s worked with the insurance commissioner’s office frequently in the past and is knowledgeable on its functions.

“That’s one of my strengths; I’ve worked on behalf of small businesses,” said Godfread, adding that insurance agents are small businesses looking for the ability to succeed within the right framework of strong regulations.

“There’s a lot of good things that can be done in this office,” Godfread said. “It’s a critical office for a number of reasons.”

Godfread said his chamber position allows him to bridge the gap between consumers, businesses and insurance providers.

“It’s important to take our North Dakota beliefs … to a national level,” Godfread said.

He said how the state addresses the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in the years ahead will depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election.

Ruth Buffalo, Democrat

For Ruth Buffalo, running for statewide office is just another step along her path in recent years of becoming more involved in leadership roles.

Buffalo, a small business owner from Mandaree, said training and running for insurance commissioner is a logical fit for her to serve North Dakotans.

“I’m running to stand up for all North Dakotans. My unique experience and background provides a fresh and informed perspective to this office,” said Buffalo, who earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Si Tanka-Huron University in South Dakota.

Buffalo, who has master’s degrees in management and business administration from the University of Mary, oversaw the wellness program at United Tribes Technical College for seven years and also taught as an adjunct instructor.

Her campaign has been aimed at educating people on what the insurance commissioner does as well as hearing from residents on concerns over the importance of having insurance, according to Buffalo, who just completed a master’s degree in public health from North Dakota State University earlier this year.

Nick Bata, Libertarian

Libertarian Party insurance commissioner candidate Nick Bata says he’s the only candidate pushing to reduce onerous regulations within the industry and create a more free-market marketplace for insurance.

“We need people who are going to look out for the little guy. Most of us are the little guy,” said Bata, a first-time candidate who has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Mayville State University.

Making people dependent on the government for solutions, including insurance programs, is not a solution, according to Bata, who works for a drywall company out of Fargo.

“We need entrepreneurs that will solve the problems,” Bata, 28, said. “I think we can have customer standards without intervention.”

Bata said he’s been running his campaign largely through social media and is jointly running a blog with the party’s Public Service Commission candidate, Thomas Skadeland, on campaign and non-campaign topics.

He expects to continue his campaign in the same manner until Election Day.

From The Bismarck Tribune