Originally created 07/22/98

One PSC race over, one close



ATLANTA -- Incumbent Public Service Commissioner Bobby Baker was named the winner Tuesday over his last-minute Republican challenger, Dan Carpenter, a telecommunications consultant.

The race to determine who would face Mr. Baker on the Democratic side was too close to call late Tuesday.

With 61 percent of the 2,751 precincts reporting, Mr. Baker was dominating Mr. Carpenter, earning 116,464 votes, or 65 percent, compared to Mr. Carpenter's 63,249, or 37 percent.

On the Democratic side, Marietta businessman Hal Crawford held a slim lead over Anna Marie Hargis, a registered nurse from Martinez. Mr. Crawford had 114,219 votes, or 50 percent, compared with Miss Hargis' 113,744, also 50 percent.

Mr. Baker already has served one six-year term on the PSC, which regulates Georgia's gas, electric and telephone utilities. PSC members' terms are staggered, and Mr. Baker's is the only seat up for election this year.

A new state law requiring candidates to live in districts almost kept Mr. Baker from running this year because he lives in Tucker, which is outside the district drawn for his seat. But lawmakers agreed to delay the effective date of the law until 2000.

When Mr. Baker was elected in 1992, he became the PSC's first Republican. But the GOP has had a majority since 1994, and four of the five current members are Republicans.

Mr. Carpenter signed up at the last minute to challenge Mr. Baker in the primary.

Miss Hargis said she was running because the PSC's five commissioners refused to meet personally with her regarding a complaint she filed against a utility in 1995.

Miss Hargis, 38, said she decided to run for the office after her complaints about gas-line safety went unheeded on state and federal levels. After a meeting at the Pipeline Safety Office in Atlanta was canceled, she said, she knew what she had to do.

"That was going to be my opportunity to meet with the commissioners because they wouldn't meet with me," she said.