Two days on the campaign trail ended for me last night in Warner Robins at a debate for Republican state-wide candidates. Karen Handel and Eric Johnson were the only GOP gubernatorial candidates to show up for the debate. But perhaps the most interesting thing uttered about their race was said by someone seeking a different office.
Seth Harp, a longtime state legislator, was one of three candidates for insurance commissioner who appeared. When asked why he wanted the job, he said it’s because “the present commissioner has used his office as a fund-raising mechanism for his campaign for governor” and that “many, many people have been shaken down.”
The “present commissioner” is, of course, John Oxendine.
Harp was giving voice to rumors that a number of people, including journalists, have been trying to pin down for months. As far as I know, he’s the only public figure to make those claims in a public forum.
When I approached Harp afterward, he wouldn’t name Oxendine’s accusers. He only said that it was everyone “from the multibillion-dollar companies to the mom-and-pops.”
“They tell me [these accusations] everywhere I go in the insurance industry. Everywhere I go,” Harp said. “They’re scared to death of him, as long as he’s in office, because he holds sway over them. … He’ll flat tell ‘em: ‘You better give it [money] to me. I’m going to be the governor, and you can pay the piper then or you can pay the piper now.’ “