Going into the final stretch before Election Day Tuesday, Ron Todd, the Republican candidate for insurance commissioner, continues to emphasize the experience he has gained during 34 years with the Kansas Department of Insurance.
Todd, who is from Lawrence, currently is assistant insurance commissioner under Fletcher Bell.
He said over the last 10 years, the insurance commissioner's office has been able to return $5 million a year to Kansans as the result of investigating questions raised about insurance claims.
"Another thing we point to with pride is that Kansas is the 46th lowest state in the United States on average auto insurance premiums. Regardless of how high we think rates are, there are a lot of places that are worse," he said.
"The issue is who is most qualified to do the job, which is to enforce the laws of the state. I'm very proud of the record our department has."
INTERVIEWED Wednesday, Todd, 58, also said he has had to continue fending off criticism from his Democratic opponent, State Sen. Paul Feleciano, Wichita, about Todd's decision to retire in 1988, begin collecting a state pension, and then be rehired for his previous position.
Feleciano questioned Todd's integrity after Todd took advantage of a law that allowed him to begin collecting an $18,000-a-year state pension and be rehired as assistant insurance commissioner and collect an annual salary of $51,480.
Concerning the pension, Todd says it isn't costing taxpayers any money and Feleciano is "misrepresenting the facts.
"I retired after (over) 40 years in the retirement system, seven years with the city of Lawrence and 34 with the state," he said. "It was like any other retirement program. The money was paid into a trust fund."
TODD WOULD not comment on recent reports that Feleciano has been sued several times for not paying bills, that his wages as a senator had been garnished and that the Internal Revenue Service had filed liens against his property.
"I don't have any particular comment on it, except that he's always portraying me as not having integrity," Todd said.
He also had little to say about a recent attack on the insurance commissioner's office by a number of former employes, who said the relationship between the office and insurance company officials was too cozy.
Todd said that the former employees who made the charge left the department six or seven years ago and have an ax to grind.
Todd acknowledged that he has accepted campaign money from individuals connected in some way with the insurance industry. But he said these people are contributing "because they want a commissioner that's fair and consistent."
TODD SAID that lower medical malpractice rates announced this year by retiring Insurance Commissioner Fletcher Bell were the result of a tort reform bill passed by the Legislature that puts a $250,000 cap on payments for pain and suffering.
Todd said he testified before the Legislature in favor of tort reform and criticized Feleciano for what he said was "resistance" to tort reform on medical malpractice.