The longest-serving member of Washington State’s executive department appears to be a lock for reelection to a sixth straight term as Washington State’s Insurance Commissioner, NPI’s recent poll of six hundred and ten likely voters has found.
52% of respondents said they are backing Democratic incumbent Kreidler for another four years, while 30% said they were voting for Kreidler’s Republican opponent, Chirayu Avinash Patel. 18% said they were not sure.
Kreidler, seventy-seven, first ran for statewide office in 2000 as part of a statewide Democratic ticket that consisted of Gary Locke for Governor, Brad Owen for Lieutenant Governor, Chris Gregoire for Attorney General, Brian Sonntag for Auditor, Mike Murphy for Treasurer, former Governor Mike Lowry for Commissioner of Public Lands, and Don Bonker for Secretary of State.
Locke, Gregoire, Murphy, and Sonntag all prevailed that year along with Kreidler. They have each since left the executive department… as have their successors.
But Kreidler has stuck around.
Two decades later, he’s still on the job, and voters seem perfectly content to keep him there providing oversight of the state’s insurance industry.
Kreidler is one of three Democrats ousted from Congress in the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 who came roaring back into Washington politics at the end of the Clinton presidency and remain fixtures in the state’s political landscape today.
Inslee, the last Democrat to represent Central Washington in Congress, was the first to get even with the Washington State Republicans.
In 1998, after moving across the Cascades, he defeated incumbent Rick White in a marquee battle in the 1st Congressional District, which at the time consisted primarily of Snohomish and East King neighborhoods assigned the 425 area code.
Inslee held the seat for over a decade, vacating it in 2012 to run for governor. (Inslee had previously run unsuccessfully for governor in 1996.)
Cantwell and Kreidler followed in Inslee’s footsteps two years later.
Cantwell successfully challenged Slade Gorton for the United States Senate, while Kreidler left a job with the United States Department of Health and Human Services to run for Insurance Commissioner when eight year Democratic incumbent Deborah Senn opted not to seek another term.
Cantwell has been reelected three times to the Senate, while Kreidler has been reelected four times to the executive department. If he wins next month, and serves out his term, he will have been in the executive department for nearly a quarter of a century, in addition to his two year stint in Congress and a sixteen year tenure in the Washington State Legislature before that.
Though Kreidler hasn’t raised much money for his 2020 reelection campaign, he has plenty of name recognition, and that’s undoubtedly what is driving his strong performance in our survey, which is very good for a downballot candidate.
Here are the numbers again and the exact question we asked:
QUESTION: The 2020 candidates for Insurance Commissioner are Democrat Mike Kreidler and Republican Chirayu Avinash Patel. Who are you voting for?
- Mike Kreidler: 52%
- Chirayu Avinash Patel: 30%
- Not sure: 18%
Our survey of six hundred and ten likely 2020 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, October 14th through Thursday, October 15th.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines and text message answers from cell phone only respondents.
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level.
Editorial boards weighing in on the 2020 contest for Insurance Commissioner have all backed Kreidler for another term.
“Despite being a relatively low-profile position, the work of the state insurance commissioner touches the lives of every Washingtonian,” explained The Columbian of Vancouver. “The Office of the Insurance Commissioner regulates insurance companies doing business in Washington.”
“If you have health insurance, auto insurance, or homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, Kreidler’s work during five terms in office has impacted you.”
“Promoting healthcare competition and playing defense against big out-of-state insurance companies requires expertise that Kreidler, a seventy-seven-year-old Olympia resident, has developed over twenty years in the office. An optometrist by training, he’s also served in Congress, the Legislature and the US Army Reserves,” editorialized The News Tribune of Tacoma.
“Kreidler directed state-regulated health insurers to expand coverage of telehealth visits. He issued an emergency order protecting consumers from surprise COVID-19-related lab fees and ordered health insurers to waive copays and deductibles for coronavirus testing,” The Seattle Times noted.
“In the last four years, his office has flagged and fought against opening massive insurance tax loopholes for big businesses, pushed through legislation to basically end surprise medical billing, banned scammy health care sharing companies, and attracted a couple new insurance companies to play in Washington’s health care exchange,” The Stranger’s Election Control Board emphasized.
Kreidler’s Republican opponent, Chirayu Avinash Patel, hasn’t been doing much campaigning, which could help explain why he performed more poorly than any other Republican candidate in our survey with just 30%.
Patel is “not running a serious campaign,” Republican operative Glen Morgan declared in a post on his personal website back in the summer, adding: “He was two months late filing his documents with the Public Disclosure Commission, has raised zero funds, and doesn’t really know much about the office.”
“Yet, he would still be an improvement on Kreidler,” Morgan concluded.
There aren’t many people in Washington who agree with that assessment.
“Patel, who describes himself as an ‘autistic savant’ in campaign literature and interviews, also has some unusual ideas he hopes will win over voters,” The Spokesman-Review’s Jim Camden reported last month. “If elected he’d share the duties of the office with Kreidler and Anthony Welti, the Libertarian candidate eliminated in the [Top Two]. He’d apply the principles of organic chemistry, which he studied at the University of Washington, to the insurance industry.”
“He’d rely on his connections to the minds of Ronald Reagan and Thomas Jefferson – with whom he says he shares a common ancestor in Genghis Khan – to help guide him in office,” Camden’s article went on to say.
“He said in a recent interview he’d set a new requirement for insurance policies that cover expensive items like rare paintings, upping the premium and requiring that policy holders have a military tank to help protect them.”
Patel is self-recruited, owing to Caleb Heimlich’s complete lack of interest (or, alternatively, lack of success) in finding an opponent for Kreidler.
Voting in the 2020 presidential election is currently in progress and is set to conclude on November 3rd, 2020 at 8 PM Pacific in Washington State.