New Castle County sheriff to run for insurance commissioner

DOVER — County sheriff to state insurance commissioner may not seem to be a typical path, but it hasn’t dissuaded Trinidad Navarro.

Mr. Navarro, the sheriff of New Castle County since 2010, recently announced he plans to seek the office currently held by fellow Democrat Karen Weldin Stewart.

He said he is running because the state “deserves a strong advocate for the consumer.”

Delaware’s insurance commissioner is responsible for regulating the industry and enforcing related laws.

Workers’ compensation rates have risen sharply in recent years, which is hurting businesses, he argued. According to a publication from the state of Oregon, Delaware ranked in the top 10 in workers’ comp rates last year, a large increase from 2012.

Trinidad Navarro

Trinidad Navarro.

Mr. Navarro said he spent several months speaking to Delawareans and frequently has heard complaints from business owners who said costs were threatening to drive then out of business — or had done so already.

Many people living in manufactured homes have been unable to get coverage, while others who own beach homes have struggled to find affordable plans, he said.

Auto insurance rates also have risen in recent years, he said. According to several websites, Delaware ranks above the national average in annual car insurance premium cost.

If elected, Mr. Navarro plans to focus on educating members of the public, using regular outreach to provide information to Delawareans.

He avoided directly criticizing Ms. Weldin Stewart, arguing his opinion on the current performance on the office does not matter and “at the end of the day, the only job is to protect the consumer.”

Implicit in his statements, and in his decision to run for the office, is an obvious dissatisfaction with the workings of the office, however.

Ms. Weldin Stewart could not be reached for comment.

While both are Democrats, Mr. Navarro said leaders in the party have not opposed his run. Ms. Weldin Stewart was elected in 2008 but was not endorsed by the Democratic Party in 2012. She narrowly won the primary before comfortably winning the general election.

Whereas Ms. Weldin Stewart worked in insurance for years before being elected, Mr. Navarro has spent the past two decades in law enforcement.

Moving to insurance regulation is an odd fit, but Mr. Navarro noted he has worked in insurance.

“The only reason why I left the industry in the early ‘90s was because I was hired as police officer,” he said.

He worked for New Castle County police, spending the last 12 years of his law enforcement career as the agency’s spokesman.

Mr. Navarro reached the rank of senior corporal before upsetting veteran sheriff Mike Walsh in the Democratic primary in 2010. He subsequently won the general election and easily was re-elected in 2014.

Every state has a chief insurance regulator, but only 11 states elect someone to the office, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Delaware’s insurance commissioner will be paid $109,032 this year, with the money coming from funds generated by the office.

Candidates for 2016 cannot officially file until January.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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