Originally created 10/17/98

Candidate eyes change in officials



As she campaigned in the Democratic primary in July, Anna Marie Hargis was relatively unknown in Georgia politics.

Now, the Columbia County Democrat -- who narrowly defeated Hal S. Crawford in the primary -- is going head to head with incumbent Republican Bobby Baker for a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission.

And Miss Hargis has gained a reputation.

"They are saying I'm nosy," she said. "I am nosy, yes. I ask a lot of questions, and there is nothing wrong with being nosy."

Created in 1879 as the Railroad Commission of Georgia, the PSC has five members elected statewide. It holds jurisdiction over commercial transportation companies, investor-owned power and natural gas companies, commercial trucking safety and telephone companies.

If elected Nov. 3, the first thing Miss Hargis plans to do is meet with the PSC's 130 employees.

"I want to meet each one of them, personally shake their hand and tell them that's my style of management -- no more threats," said the 38-year-old registered nurse.

Mr. Baker has been on the commission since 1993. Since then, he has concentrated on deregulating utilities and expanding toll-free calling in Georgia.

"I'm proud of my record," said Mr. Baker, the PSC chairman. "I think it will withstand public scrutiny."

If re-elected, Mr. Baker plans to continue fighting consumer fraud and pushing for more transportation enforcement on the highway.

"I'm going to keep on trying to keep on doing my job to make sure we provide affordable, reliable utility services," he said.

Mr. Baker laughs at suggestions that he's part of a good-ol' boy network on the commission. As the first Republican elected to a state office since Reconstruction, he said he was shunned by old-time politicians.

"When I was first elected, I was the lone Republican down there," he said. "After the Legislature left, I was by myself at the Capitol. If she (Miss Hargis) thinks I'm part of the good ol' boy power structure, she doesn't know her history."

One other PSC seat -- a non-partisan post -- is up for election Nov. 3. In that race, Commissioner Lauren W. "Bubba" McDonald Jr. faces James H. Cole of Smyrna and James P. Kulstad of Atlanta.

PSC candidates

ANNA MARIE HARGIS

Party: Democratic

Age: 38

Residence: Martinez

Education: Associate degree in business from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton; bachelor's degree in hotel management from Georgia State University in Atlanta; bachelor's degree in nursing from Medical College of Georgia

Business: Registered nurse

Political experience: None

Family: Single

ROBERT F. `BOBBY' BAKER JR.

Party: Republican

Age: 41

Residence: Tucker

Education: Bachelor's degree from Oglethorpe University; law degree from University of Georgia

Business: Chairman, Georgia Public Service Commission

Political experience: PSC commissioner since 1993; 1992 Georgia presidential elector

Family: Single

Jason B. Smith covers government for The Augusta Chronicle's Columbia County Bureau. He can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.