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Runoff for Public Service Commission also on Georgia ballots

January 6, 2021 GMT
Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission Daniel Blackman speaks during a rally in Augusta, Ga., Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are challenging incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in a runoff election on Jan. 5. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)
Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission Daniel Blackman speaks during a rally in Augusta, Ga., Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are challenging incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in a runoff election on Jan. 5. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — In addition to Georgia’s twin U.S. Senate runoffs that have commanded national attention, the state’s voters on Tuesday are deciding a race for the state’s Public Service Commission that could affect residents’ utility bills and the state’s investments in the fight against climate change.

Incumbent Republican Lauren “Bubba” McDonald is seeking a fourth six-year term on the utility regulatory body, with Democrat Daniel Blackman trying to break the GOP’s exclusive hold of the commission’s five seats.

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 are running statewide to represent a district which includes Augusta, Gainesville, Rome and areas north to the state line.

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As of late Tuesday, it was still too early to call the close race.

The winner will have to deal with the ultimate impact of Georgia Power Co.’s $25 billion Vogtle nuclear plant on customer bills. McDonald has been a consistent supporter of the two new reactors that Georgia Power is building at the site near Augusta. Blackman, a former senior vice president for environmental affairs at a management-consulting firm, says he wants to shift some of the cost burden of Vogtle back to the utility.

Blackman also 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.

McDonald said he favors a market-based approach to solar and other renewables. He also argued there’s enough assistance for people facing high bills, and said customers should pay to clean up coal ash since they used the electricity generated from the coal.

Republican Jason Shaw won election to a full term on the commission in November when he beat Democrat Robert Bryant and Libertarian Elizabeth Melton.