ATLANTA (AP) — Incumbent Republican Lauren “Bubba” McDonald has won a fourth term on the Georgia Public Service Commission, turning back a runoff challenge from Democrat Daniel Blackman.
The win means Republicans will keep control of all five seats on the utility regulator, as they decide the ultimate impact on customer bills of Georgia Power Co.’s $25 billion nuclear plant expansion.
McDonald led voting in November but fell short of a majority in a three-way election that included Blackman and libertarian Nathan Wilson. The candidates ran statewide to represent a district that includes Augusta, Gainesville, Rome and areas north to the state line.
McDonald told voters that he had correctly balanced the interests of customers and utilities, having been a consistent supporter of the Vogtle nuclear plant.
Blackman, a former senior vice president for environmental affairs at a management-consulting firm, had sought to shift some of the cost burden of Vogtle back to the utility.
The plan to add a third and fourth nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle survived a cost-overrun scare in 2018 with the heavy support of the state’s Republican establishment.
McDonald said he favors a market-based approach to solar and other renewables. He also argued that people facing high bills have enough assistance and said customers should pay to clean up coal ash since they used the electricity generated from the coal.
Blackman attacked McDonald for not doing enough to increase renewable energy, help customers pay their bills and make Georgia Power shareholders pay to clean up coal ash ponds instead of putting the cost on customers.
Republican Jason Shaw won election to a full term on the commission in November when he beat Democrat Robert Bryant and libertarian Elizabeth Melton.