Ken Selzer emerged from a crowded field Tuesday to capture the Republican nomination for Kansas insurance commissioner.
The certified public accountant from Leawood defeated four rivals in a tight race that was among the last to be settled Tuesday night. Selzer captured 27 percent of 236,644 votes cast in the contest, according to final but unofficial numbers compiled by Kansas secretary of state’s office.
Beverly Gossage finished second in the balloting just ahead of former Sen. Clark Shultz, whose 18-year legislative career included 10 sessions as chairman of the House Insurance Committee. David Powell finished fourth with 17 percent of the vote. John Toplikar trailed the field, finishing with 10 percent of the vote.
Like all of the GOP candidates, Selzer is opposed to the Affordable Care Act. He has said he will advocate for its repeal as a member of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
But if elected, he said the controversial law won’t be his main focus. Most of his attention, he said, will be focused on making the regulatory agency more responsive to consumers and insurance companies alike.
“We’re going to look to make it more responsive, more productive, more innovative and more efficient,” Selzer said. “It’s that message that really resonated with Kansans.”
Selzer has said he wants to use the position to increase competition among insurance companies in Kansas.
Selzer is seeking to succeed three-term incumbent Sandy Praeger, a moderate Republican who bucked the party establishment by supporting the federal health reform law.
Praeger endorsed Shultz in the GOP primary but likely will back Democrat Dennis Anderson in the general election because she believes he would be more likely to continue the department’s efforts to educate consumers about the health reform law.
Praeger said it’s important that public officials opposed to the law not continue to misrepresent it to consumers.
“Our responsibility is to the consumer, not to a political party,” she said. “And I think it’s really important that first and foremost we perform the functions of this job to the best of our ability, which means educating consumers and giving out good information and not getting caught up in the political rhetoric of the day.”
Jim McLean is executive editor of KHI News Service, an editorially independent reporting program of the Kansas Health Institute.