Oddly intense PSC election appears close

ATLANTA -- Four months of campaigning and residency challenges ended Tuesday as voters made their picks for the 1st and 4th districts of the Public Service Commission.

Voting was statewide, but the candidates have to reside in the districts. For the 1st District, which spans most of South Georgia, incumbent Republican Commissioner Doug Everett had incumbency and backing of a larger party compared to Libertarian John Monds. Most observers expected Everett to dominate.

The 4th District election is likely to be a close one.

Republican Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Democrat Jim Powell and Libertarian Brandon Givens are vying to replace outgoing GOP Commissioner Angela Speir in the race for the 4th District, encompassing about 20 counties in North Georgia.

PSC elections are usually lackluster contests. But this year’s drew added attention due to multibillion-dollar energy decisions on the horizon, and Secretary of State Karen Handel’s attempt to disqualify Powell days before the July primary.

Powell, who said he was the victim of a partisan vendetta from the Republican Handel, ultimately prevailed in the Georgia Supreme Court just last week.

Residency became an issue in the 1st District in October when Monds questioned Everett’s residency, citing addresses outside the district that Everett used on political documents.

Handel’s office investigated but found no basis to challenge Everett’s residency, spokesman Matt Carrothers said.

Candidates only need to prove they intend to make their primary home inside the district.

This week the commission began its review of Georgia Power’s $6.4 billion proposal to add two new nuclear reactors to Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro. A decision is expected in March. The commission will also face decisions on the emergence of renewable energy in the state’s power market.

Commissioners are elected to six-year terms and are paid $117,000 a year.

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