Originally created 11/07/97

Commissioner or candidate?

Things can get confusing on the campaign trail when state officials run for re-election.

"I'm the commissioner," Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said at a reception Thursday night at the home of insurance executive Tim Shelnut. "I'm a Republican. I'm a friend of Tim Shelnut's."

The event had been originally planned as a $100 per couple fund-raiser until press inquiries alerted Mr. Oxendine that a member of the reception's host committee, University Hospital President Don Bray, is seeking to buy a troubled insurance company Mr. Oxendine's office is supervising.

The event was quickly changed to a "meet and greet," said Jeffrey Skelton, director of public information and consumer education for the commissioner.

"I came to town as the commissioner," Mr. Oxendine said, in order to speak to a civic club. "Wherever I go, I'm the commissioner."

But he also took time from his remarks to acknowledge fellow Republican and gubernatorial hopeful Guy Millner, who was also at the event.

Democratic Gov. Zell Miller "is a nice guy, but I need a Republican governor," Mr. Oxendine said to cheers from the crowd. "If y'all are going to re-elect me and send me back up there for four years, please give me a Republican governor."

The commissioner would not answer questions about Master Health Plan or University Hospital on the advice of the attorney general, Mr. Skelton said.

Master Health Plan is the first health maintenance organization to be sold this way with Mr. Oxendine's office directly involved in the negotiations, so he is being extra cautious, Mr. Skelton said.

"There's a lot of attention being paid to it," Mr. Skelton said. "It's very high on the radar screen."

Even if Mr. Oxendine wasn't talking about it, longtime Master Health representative M. David Alalof, president of AHS and Associates Insurance, said he felt the process would be concluded in a matter of weeks.

"John does what's right," Mr. Alalof said as Mr. Oxendine smiled and skipped by him.


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