As a candidate for insurance commissioner in 2007, then-State Sen. Mike Chaney floated the idea of making the position he was running for appointed.
He went on to win election that year and is the odds-on favorite to win a fourth term in a couple months. The legislature never considered making this position appointed. And likely never will. Because we love electing people. Even if we don’t really know what the office does, who is running, or what other states are doing.
Today, Mississippi is one of 11 states that elect insurance commissioners. That’s not the only anomaly.
The agriculture commissioner is elected in 12 states, mostly in the Southeast. Mississippi has three public service commissioners, divided among the northern, central, and southern regions of the state. We are one of 11 states that elects public service commissioners. That’s better than our other regionally elected office – transportation commissioner. We are the only state that still elects transportation commissioners.
We find a little more election popularity among other statewide offices. The auditor is elected in 24 states, so close to half. The secretary of state is elected in 35 states and the treasurer is elected in 36 states, so we can at least claim to be with the majority of other states for those two positions.
And every judge on the supreme court and the court of appeals is elected. Not to mention many of the county and municipal posts that could easily be appointed.
Could we ever see an elected position become appointed?
The lack of interest in appointing a position like the insurance commissioner probably answers that question. But we have seen minor change here and there.
We use to elect the state superintendent of education. And four years ago, the legislature switched to appointed school superintendents for every school district. At the time, we were one of the last three states to make the move.
Odds are we won’t be seeing much change. People like electing officials even if the office is simply a regulatory post where the focus should be on the most qualified individual, not the one who is best at receiving the most votes.