Thomasville Times Enterprise

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February 9, 2009

Insurance commissioner distances himself from Georgia Republicans

THOMASVILLE — John Oxendine believes it’s time to put away the Band-Aids and start finding cures for Georgia’s many ailments.

Oxendine, the state’s insurance commissioner and fire safety chief, is eyeing the governorship in 2010. The 46-year-old Republican told a small gathering at The Plaza that he has grown disenchanted with his party and its lack of accomplishments.

“If I had to articulate why Republicans are doing a better job of running the state than the Democrats did, I’d be hard-pressed to find the words,” he said.

Oxendine, a lifelong conservative, swept into office in 1994, becoming the first Republican to head a major state agency in Georgia. He was the leading Republican vote-getter in his last two elections.

“What I liked about the Republican Party is that I believed it was more democratic than the Democratic Party,” Oxendine said. “It was truly run by everyday Georgians. It was the grassroots.

“The people ran the party.”

Oxendine, however, said too many Republicans changed their philosophy while currying favor with corporations and lobbyists.

“Large corporations and lobbyists — not all of them, but most of them — go with the power,” he said. “If the Republicans are in power, they’ll be with the Republicans. If Democrats are in power, they’ll be with the Democrats. So why should we change our party just to make them happy?

“We need to stay with the people who brought us to power.”

Oxendine said the governor and the General Assembly have accomplished little in recent years because they spend too much time battling for credit.

“That’s not the way public servants should act,” he said. “We need to require that our elected officials act with a servant’s heart.”

Oxendine said he keeps his department focused on customer service. He has expanded the schedule of consumer help-line operators to 7 p.m. on weeknights.

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