Downing, Nicol, Tuxbury face off in GOP auditor primary: Nelly Nicol
Last updated 5/1/2020 at 12:16pm
Billings insurance company employee Nelly Nicol is facing off against Helena insurance agent Scott "Tux" Tuxbury and Big Sky businessman Troy Downing in the Republican primary to select the candidate who will advance to the general election in the race for Matt Rosendale's place as Montana auditor.
The office regulates insurance and securities in Montana.
First-term Auditor Rosendale is not running for re-election and instead is one of five candidates in the Republican primary in the race for Montana's U.S. House seat.
Nicol said her intent for the office is to be consumer-oriented.
"I'm running for office to make insurance user-friendly, less expensive and to create a healthier market which then drives down rates and increases services to the consumer," she said.
She said she thinks she is the best candidate because she has worked on driving down rates in other markets and been successful.
"I've already paved a pathway for that," she added.
In 2006, she said, she was called to Miles City to start an economic development project that had three key components.
The first component was to keep the Miles City Veteran Affairs building viable so it wouldn't be shut down, the second was to create good-paying jobs and the third was to create competition in Montana's Workers' Compensation market, Nicol said.
And, she said, the project was successful. she said the veterans still have a home and a clinic they can use, the project was able to keep the building open, and, with the projects, jobs were created. The project also was also able to help with decreasing state Workers' Compensation rates, which she said have gone down by more than 60 percent.
Nicol said she sees a huge part of the the purpose of the auditor's position is protecting consumers.
"What I would like to see from the auditor's office is to see it become more like a marketing-role to make insurance more business friendly, so that we are appealing to other states that want to come in and compete and to create that healthy insurance market," she said. "... In that office I would like to see complete transparency as far as, I don't think the auditor's office should be advocating for anyone, company or thing, I think it needs to be a steady platform or all-private industry, so that's one of my plans is to make it really transparent and be really obvious in creating that healthy platform for private industry to grow from."
Creating that healthy insurance market protects consumers because it gives them more options, she said, adding that it protects them because if one insurance company pulls out the rates don't go crazy, so having that consistency is going to be huge for people's budgets.
Nicol said another way to protect consumers is through protecting people from fraud, adding that that is another role of the auditor's office.
"I've already implemented, just in my running, I've already tested out different revenues and ways to successfully get messaging out to our elderly population and developed a whole thing called 'Nelly's Tender Heart Project,' and that was very successful and it costs hardly anything at all," she said. "That is something I could implement statewide, I just did it in Billing and then I ran over to Miles City because my grandma lives there, and did her nursing home too, but just starting little education things like that to protect consumers, and in the meantime educating the kids, so that kids understand this as they're growing up what fraud is out there, what to look for, how to watch out for their elderly, is also really important."
Rosendale brought back the Christian health ministry plan Medi-Share to Montana after it had been removed from the state for more than 10 years over questions of whether it was truly insurance and if it selectively refuses to pay for some treatments.
Nicol said that, at this point, she thinks Medi-Share is a good option to bring back.
She added that bringing in more options helps, and any time someone only has one or two things to pick from and one of those things fails, the options don't have the opportunity to compete fairly and then it's not healthy.
"But if you have a whole bunch of companies to pick from and choose from, then everybody on the private sector side, they have to pick up their game, they have to provide service, they have to compete with rates, they have to do things, and if there isn't that competition there, and if there isn't options for people, then those businesses kind of don't have to compete," Nicol said.
She said she brings personal experience in trying to help consumers, as well.
"I have a real heart for our diseased people because I have a child that has a rare disease, and so I would like to help with that," Nicol said.
She said, as the auditor has one of five state Land Board members who vote on the board's agenda set by the governor, the auditor both has a vital vote on this board as well as being another vessel for the people of Montana to voice concerns that they may have with specific land issues.
"While campaigning, I've met people that would greatly benefit from a small land swap deal that all parties are happy with and their issues never make the board agenda," Nicol said. "I will fight to get those win-win swaps on the agenda with our new governor."
Born in 1976, Missoula
B.S. in public relations with minor in mass communiciations Montana State University Billings, 2003, previously studied agronomy at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., elementary education at Montana State University-Northern
No military service but spent early years on U.S. Marine Corps bases while father served
Business owner, 20 years in insurance industry, health care professional.
No public offices held if any - None
Married to Bill, four children