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Hudgens aims for insurance chief's office

ALBANY -- Augusta Republican Ralph Hudgens, running for state insurance and safety fire commissioner against Democrat Mary Squires and Libertarian Shane Bruce, said experience should count for something. And he has one simple message for Georgia voters:

"If you are going to vote for (fellow Republicans) Johnny Isakson (U.S. Senate), and if you are going to vote for Nathan Deal (governor), don't stop there," the former Bainbridge resident said. "Go all the way through the ballot and let's finish the job."

Isakson is defending his U.S. Senate seat against challengers Mike Thurmond, a Democrat, and Chuck Donovan, a Libertarian, while Deal is squaring off against former Democratic governor Roy Barnes and Libertarian John Monds to replace Sonny Perdue as Georgia's next governor.

Hudgens, who currently serves as chairman of the state Senate's Insurance and Labor Committee and vice-chair of the Banking and Financial Institution, claims to be one of the state's foremost experts on insurance, business regulation and consumer issues.

If elected, Hudgens says one of his first priorities will be battling "Obamacare," referring to President Obama's sweeping health care reform legislation.

"Simply put, 'Obamacare' is a tax on existing, and it's one of the biggest problems we will face," Hudgens said last week during a swing through Albany.

"No law or regulation should force any Georgian to buy government-mandated health insurance.

"Plus no health insurance company can survive if they have to insure pre-existing conditions. That's like buying auto insurance after you've already had a wreck."

In Hudgens' opinion, health care under the federal bill signed by Obama will place an onerous burden to the people of Georgia.

"The current proposal of the Obama administration is totally unworkable," Hudgens said.

"It will either severely restrict access for individuals or the phenomenal cost will result in an astronomical increase in the taxes you pay. A single-payer system by the government will have all the efficiencies of the postal service with the compassion of the IRS.

"We don't like it, and we don't want to play."

Hudgens said another of his priorities will be to expand the fraud investigation arm of the insurance commissioner's office.

"I think it's vitally important that we increase our insurance fraud investigation unit," Hudgens said.

"If we reduce instances of fraud it will lower insurance rates all across the state due to increased competition."

Ultimately, Hudgens said, his goal is to protect Georgians.

"The sole mission of the insurance commissioner's office is consumer protection," he said. "That's what it's all about."