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Gov. Scott gets no backers on Bragg, insurance pick postponed again

The impasse continued Tuesday on picking Florida’s next insurance commissioner with a moment of Zen-like silence.

At a Cabinet meeting, Gov. Rick Scott again moved his pick for Florida insurance commissioner, Tampa Bay-area former insurance executive and federal administrator Jeffrey Bragg. He asked for a second from the four-member Cabinet. None came.

“Doesn’t look like there will be a second, ” Scott said. “Where do we go from here?”

Scott did not seem totally caught off guard, because he immediately proposed an unusual step — reconvening Cabinet members Friday, by phone if necessary. He also indicated he will call for public interviews with two Office of Insurance Regulation deputies, David Altmaier and Rich Robleto.

With hurricane season about a month away, Scott said he wants to see a permanent replacement for Kevin McCarty, who has said he will stay on 45 days after an appointment. Scott’s office has publicly sought McCarty’s replacement since last year.

North Palm Beach’s Atwater noted there had only been a couple of public meetings to talk to candidates and said the process was healthy and working as designed.

Under Florida’s rules, the governor and CFO must be part of a majority to pick the insurance commissioner. The idea was “there would be no individual who could influence a unique outcome,” Atwater said. “There would be a consensus-building outcome.”

The four finalists Tuesday included Ray Blacklidge, executive vice president and general counsel for American Traditions Insurance Co. in Pinellas Park. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2005, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam asked about media scrutiny for a “hot seat” job.

Blacklidge said, “I’m just a simple country lawyer and had a few bumps in the road.” He called himself “thick-skinned” and said those past issues “shouldn’t be a problem” for the state role.

Bragg returned to stress broad public and private experience. Last month, he faced inquiries about a story in The Palm Beach Post involving a lawsuit, later settled, claiming that he misled investors in a flood insurance venture.

State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, repeated a pledge he would be “unafraid” to take on tough issues like water-damage claims that insurance companies say are being inflated by third parties.

Belinda Miller, chief of staff for the Office of Insurance Regulation, emphasized her decades of experience in Florida and said a legislative fix would be necessary for water-claims abuses.

No one seemed to be formally eliminated. Attorney General Pam Bondi said Scott and Atwater “need to come to an agreeement first.” Putnam added, “We need to start eyeballing the runway here.”

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