Update: Outgoing insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty announced Wednesday he is putting off his scheduled departure from May 2 to 45 days after state officials pick a successor.
See more details in our story here.
Original post: Turn up the cliff-hanger suspense music. Two finalists for Florida insurance commissioner appear set to come back before the Cabinet Tuesday for return engagements a month after a political stalemate. One or more others might join them. Appointment viewing on the Florida Channel.
Gov. Rick Scott agreed to talk briefly to candidate Bill Hager at 1 p.m. Wednesday but made it known through a meeting of Cabinet aides earlier in the day he wants to bring back the other finalist he has put forward, Jeffrey Bragg, before the Cabinet next Tuesday, April 26.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater moved state Rep. Hager, R-Delray Beach, to be insurance commissioner last month but Scott did not agree, extending the process. Atwater has scheduled interviews with now five additional candidates this week, and will make known in coming days if he wants to invite any others besides the two finalists, his aide said in a public meeting Wednesday.
An Atwater spokeswoman said “it is our intention that both of last meeting’s interviewees will attend the upcoming Cabinet meeting— both Mr. Bragg and Mr. Hager.”
Atwater added a fifth name to his scheduled interviews this week, former Oklahoma deputy insurance commissioner Denise Engle.
Scott has backed Bragg but the candidate faced questioning in late March’s Cabinet meeting about a story in The Palm Beach Post concerning a lawsuit, later settled, accusing him of misleading investors in a Florida flood insurance venture. Bragg also he said was unfamiliar with navigators, government-paid helpers with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, when questioned by Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The governor and CFO must agree with a majority of the four-member Cabinet to make a pick. So that means there has to be some movement to break the deadlock and rally around either Hager, a former Iowa insurance commissioner, or Bragg, a former Tampa-area insurance executive and federal terrorism and flood insurance administrator — or a third compromise choice.
Otherwise, further stalemate would likely mean outgoing insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty either agrees to stay past his announced departure date of May 2, or an interim head is put in place. That interim head could become the de facto choice in the absence of consensus, even if the Cabinet formally keeps looking for a permanent pick.
A spokeswoman for McCarty’s office said, “We cannot speculate at this time regarding what might be needed to assist in a smooth transition for the Office until the April 26 Cabinet Meeting has taken place. The Commissioner is committed to providing assistance in facilitating the transition, but we do not yet know what that might entail.”