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Public Service Commission candidates facing same challenges

POSTED: May 3, 2014 12:24 a.m.

The three Republican candidates vying for the District 4 Public Service Commission seat in the May 20 primary have many differences, but there’s one glaring thing they have in common. 

Incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz and Lavonia general practice attorney Doug Kidd each face the challenge of explaining to voters exactly what the commission does and its role in serving Georgians.

“I’m finding that very, very few people know the significance of this role that we are running for,” Lutz said. “It is a challenge.” 

The commission, made up of five members elected statewide who serve staggered six-year terms, regulates the rates and services of Georgia Power, natural gas providers and telecommunications businesses in the state. 

The commission, however, does not regulate municipal utilities and electric membership corporations, such as Jackson EMC. Commissioners make an annual salary of about $116,000. 

“We have as much of an impact on the consumer’s pocketbook as any other agency in government,” McDonald said. 

Kidd described the lack of knowledge about the commission, as well as the fact that he’s a political novice, as both a “blessing and a curse.” 

Though Kidd is a relative unknown in political circles, few voters he’s met know much about McDonald, he said, despite the incumbent’s years of service in elected office. That dynamic gives Kidd hope that he can win the trust of voters. 

McDonald said he is seeking re-election because there are still things on his plate he wants to address. 

“I haven’t finished the job that I’ve started,” he added. “I haven’t completed the task.” 

McDonald said he’s proud of his leadership in pushing solar power to the fore in the state, including commitments the commission has won from Georgia Power to increase its solar investment. 

But that is the very issue that has sparked both Lutz’s and Kidd’s campaigns. 

“Solar feels good,” Lutz said. “But when you practically look at it ... you can see it’s got some gaping holes. It’s (an issue) that voters can get energized around.”

Additionally, Lutz believes his experience working for BellSouth gives him an edge up on his opponents. 

“I had always been interested in the Public Service Commission,” he added by way of explaining his exit from the Board of Commissioners. 

Kidd said his interest in the commission stems from his studies in law school, as well as the fact that he got tired of seeing his power bill grow and grow every year as the commission approved Georgia Power rate increases. 

Commissioners “listen more to what the utilities want rather than what consumers need,” Kidd said. “Everybody complains about their power bill.”

During the final weeks of the campaign, McDonald said he would continue to tout his experience on the commission as well as his interest in increasing solar power generation. 

Lutz said he would be visiting several counties, and that he would send out targeted mailers to potential voters. 

Kidd, meanwhile, said he would do a little radio advertising and finish his goal to visit all 159 counties in the state, having already swung through 117. 

But because the commission race has received little attention from the media, each candidate is unsure how well they are actually faring as May 20 approaches. 

For Lutz and Kidd, the best bet may be getting to a runoff with McDonald. 

“That’s kind of what I’m hoping for right now,” Kidd said.


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