Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Southeast Regional State Executive Officials

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October 30, 2012

By Maresa Strano

Portal:State Executive Officials
See also: Alabama state executive official elections, 2012
See also: Georgia state executive official elections, 2012
See also: Louisiana state executive official elections, 2012

MADISON, Wisconsin: It's an off-year for gubernatorial elections in the southeastern United States, which means the region is fired up about its down-ballot races for state executive offices. Voters in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana will see various seats on their state's Public Service Commission on the ballot when they hit the polls next Tuesday.

 Candidates for Public Service Commission President 

See also: Alabama down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Lucy Baxley (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Twinkle Cavanaugh (R)

One state executive position is up for election this year in the state of Alabama. Voters will make their choice for Alabama Public Service Commission President on November 6th.

Incumbent Lucy Baxley was first elected PSC President in 2008. She won by a slim margin over fellow commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh (R), who has challenged Baxley to a rematch this year. Baxley is the former lieutenant governor and state treasurer. She is also the only the Democrat currently holding statewide office in Alabama. Cavanaugh was elected to the commission in 2010.

Baxley ran unopposed in the March 13th primary election, while three Republicans battled for their party's nomination. Since no candidate secured over 50 percent of the vote, the top-two vote getters - Cavanaugh and Iraq veteran/real estate developer Chip Brown - headed to a runoff election on April 24th, which Cavanaugh won.[1][2]

For a down ballot race, the Alabama Public Service Commission President contest has attracted significant attention, even making the Lucy Burns Institute's October 15th list of "The Top 15 Races We're Talking About". Not only is the race noteworthy because of Democratic Party's endangered species status in present day Alabama political leadership, but also because of Cavanaugh's bold move in challenging a fellow incumbent mid-term. The Republican contender has received criticism for having been elected to a four-year term in 2010, only to be looking to raise her position two years later. And if she unseats Baxley on November 6th, state-row could be without Democratic representation for the first time in state history.

Baxley, who at age 74 is in a wheelchair and cannot compete on level with Cavanaugh's active, traveling style of campaign, believes that Republicans "want to get even for the length of time Democrats were in office and Republicans didn't have any." Two years ago, Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature "for the first time since Reconstruction," while electing Republican Robert Bentley as governor, gaining a trifecta for the party in Alabama.[3] The race is a tossup.

Baxley and Cavanaugh both want to use the position to maintain low, stable electric rates for state residents through active communication with Alabama's major utilities and PSC staff, but Cavanaugh has expressed additional interest in expanding the role of PSC President. Her campaign emphasizes her desire to make the office a leader in job creation and economic stimulation. Cavanaugh previously served as Alabama Republican Party chairwoman and believes that Baxley's allegiance to President Obama and the Democratic Party is a signal of the incumbent's lesser qualification to address the state's economic issues, especially with regard to stagnancy.[4]

The powers of the Alabama PSC are limited to regulating electric and gas utilities, since a 2005 deregulation law, coupled with the proliferation of cellular phones, severely restricted the agency's influence and ability to raise rates.[4] Baxley believes her challenger's plan to use the position to promote job creation is misguided and poised to cause friction with the governor and the state's Department of Commerce, who would see the commission's increased involvement in jobs as “just trying to cash in on their good news.”[4]

In Alabama, all polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Central Time.[5]

See also: Georgia down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Two state executive positions are up for election in 2012 in the state of Georgia:

The commission is composed of five popularly elected members who serve staggered, six-year terms. They are responsible for regulating Georgia's public utilities -- that is, electric, gas, telecommunications and transportation firms.[6]

In Georgia, polls are open from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM Eastern Time on Election Day. Any voter who is waiting in line to vote at 7:00 PM will be allowed to vote.[7]

District 3

Republican Party Chuck Eaton (R) (Incumbent)
Democratic Party Stephen Oppenheimer (D)
Libertarian Party Brad Ploeger (L)
 Candidates for Public Service Commission District 3 

Incumbent Chuck Eaton (R) is seeking re-election in 2012. He defeated Matt Reid in the Republican primary on July 31st. Eaton was first elected to the Public Service Commission in December 2006, and he served as Commission Chairman in 2008.[8]. His campaign was endorsed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R)[9]

Eaton will defend his District 3 seat this election against two challengers: Stephen Oppenheimer, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Libertarian candidate Brad Ploeger.[10]

Oppenheimer is running on a series of five pledges, which he lists on his official campaign website.[11] They include plans to "promote transparency by the Commission encouraging the free market and free enterprise which Georgia’s innovators and world class institutions need to thrive and create more jobs and industry, and to make Georgia’s job growth and economic development the TOP priority of the Commission with respect to opportunities and innovations in telecommunications, transportation, electric and natural gas services."

On Ploeger's official campaign website, he cites defending consumers, ethical governance, and fiscal responsibility as the central issues of his 2012 campaign for Georgia PSC: "My primary mission on the Public Service Commission is to watch out for the consumer and not the regulated businesses. As part of this commitment, I refuse to accept any campaign contributions from regulated businesses or individuals that bring matters before the commission."[12]

District 5

 Candidates for Public Service Commission District 5 

Republican Party Stan Wise (R) (Incumbent)
Libertarian Party David Staples (Libertarian)

Incumbent Stan Wise (R) serves as the District 5 Chairman, representing District 5. He was first elected in 1994, and has served as Chairman in 1997, 1999, 2006, and 2011. Wise is seeking re-election in 2012. He defeated Pam Davidson in the Republican primary on July 31st.

No Democrats filed for office, but Wise will face Libertarian candidate David Staples in the general election.[13]

Wise is running on the slogan "Promises made, promises kept."[12] In addition to touting his record of applying conservative principles to the office, his chief campaign issues (as outlined on his official campaign website) include "ensuring reliability by modernizing our energy delivery system through investment in the power grid and natural gas transmission systems" and holding steady natural gas rates at below the national average. His re-election campaign is endorsed by Newt Gingrich.[14]

According to the October 15th Atlanta Progressive News article endorsing Libertarian challenger Staples' bid for Georgia PSC, his priorities for the District 5 seat are to:

  • "End the trend of ratepayer-subsidized, guaranteed profits for Georgia Power"
  • "Use the PSC’s ability to set profit levels for Georgia Power as an incentive system to encourage Georgia Power to meet goals such as greater renewable energy targets and cleaner sources of natural gas."[15]
 Candidates for Public Service Commission 

See also: Louisiana state executive official elections, 2012
Republican PartyScott Angelle
Republican PartyErich Ponti
Republican Party Sarah Holliday
Democratic Party Forest Wright
Greg Gaubert (No Party Affiliation)

There is only one executive office up for election this year in Louisiana: the open District 2 seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission. The seat is being vacated by James "Jimmy" Field (R), who has served as commissioner since Dec. 2, 1996 and will retire at the end of the term at the ripe age of 72.[16][17]

Unlike most states, Louisiana uses the blanket primary - under this system all candidates, regardless of party, run in the same primary. A candidate can be declared the overall winner of the seat by garnering more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary. However, if no candidate reaches this threshold, then a general election runoff will take place on December 8, 2012 between the top-two vote getters.

The Louisiana PSC is composed of five members, each of whom serves a term of six years. And the number six was on the tip of everyone’s tongue on Friday, August 17th as candidate filing period came to a close and the presumed three-man race swelled to six. The six candidates who successfully submitted their nominating petitions and paid their $600 qualifying fee to compete in Louisiana’s blanket primary (also known as a “top-two” primary because the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation) included four Republicans, one Democrat, and one candidate - the last to submit his qualifying materials to the Louisiana Secretary of State - with no stated party preference. The first candidate to enter the race, Republican hopeful Ed Roy immediately sent the press abuzz by publicly requesting a signed pledge from each individual considering a run that he or she will serve the full six years on the commission, if elected, and "not use the PSC as Stepping Stone for Governor in 2015 or before."[18] Indeed, Louisiana governors' Kathleen Blanco, preceded by John McKeithen and Huey Long all served on the PSC before ascending to the state's chief executive office.[16] Shortly thereafter, Roy, a private investigator, withdrew his candidacy, citing lack of funds.[19]

Since Roy's departure, five remain in the primary race to fill the District 2 seat, which covers Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes: Scott Angelle (R), Erich Ponti (R), Sarah Holliday (R), Greg Gaubert (no party affiliation), and Forest Wright (D).[20] Louisiana will hold its primary election for statewide races on November 6, 2012, when all other states hold their general election. A runoff, if necessary, will take place on December 8th.

Republican Party Scott Angelle's comparatively high name-recognition makes him the likely front runner in the race. Angelle was the Louisiana Secretary of Natural Resources. He was appointed as a Democrat by Gov. Kathleen Blanco (and former Public Service Commissioner) in 2004, and reappointed in 2008 by Gov. Bobby Jindal, for whom he eventually became a Republican.[21] Angelle resigned his post on August 8, 2012 in order to run for the PSC.[22] He also served a six month stint as lieutenant governor back in 2010. On Angelle's website, his campaign committee lists "Regulation. Not Strangulation," and growing the economy by keeping utility rates low as top priorities for the commissioner's seat. "Since 1972, there have been six recessions in the United States, each of them preceded by a spike in energy prices. High utility costs not only hurt families at home, but they stifle the growth of our small businesses and economy. Scott Angelle will fight to make sure we have the reliable, low cost energy we need to grow and prosper in our State and Nation."[12]

Four of the candidates shared their credentials and goals for the office with an interviewer from the Tri-Parish Times, released in October:

Independent Greg Gaubert (No Party) is the a hotel owner in Thibodaux, and believes that his history working for the family business, which involved him "in electrical production for every segment of the Public Service Commission,” qualifies him to serve as commissioner. His campaign also focuses on a proposal to pay Louisiana consumers back for three years overpaying on electric rates, and "developing hydroelectric plants and look at relative expansion with natural gas as a supply source."[23]

Republican Party Homemaker and business owner Sarah Holliday wants to bring more awareness and accountability to the office. ”I have a problem with commissioners accepting money from utility companies you regulate, even though it is not unlawful...I want to educate and administer to the public at the same time.” Holliday says that, if elected, she will collaborate with all sectors of local industry and community to figure out the most cost-effective and environmentally conscious ways to secure energy and utilities for consumers.[23]

Republican Party State Rep. Erich Ponti cites upcoming issues like "selling the grid system and then deregulation of waste hauling" among his priorities for the District 2 seat. Ponti believes his conservative values, and his background as a general contractor and 4 years as a state lawmaker have prepared him for the job. He says that he will resign from the state House if elected and will to strive to maintain stable, low energy rates.

Democratic Party Sole Democratic contender Forest Wright is an independent energy consultant by trade who seeks the commissioner position because he firmly believes in the PSC's "sacred duty to protect the public interest." Wright wants to address the imminent challenge of setting new energy rates amid the current transition "to a larger market base system." He wants to see Entergy's vertical monopoly of transmission facilities dismantled responsibly and then handled by independent organizations. Wright also emphasized his refusal to accept campaign donations from utilities, unlike his primary competitors, to illustrate his integrity.[23]

In Louisiana all polls are open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM Central Time.[24]

See also


Ballotpedia News
  1. Gadsden Times, "PSC president primary race headed for runoff," March 14, 2012
  2., "Alabama runoff election results," accessed April 24, 2012
  3. The Republic, "Future of Alabama Democratic Party hinges on 74-year-old PSC president Lucy Baxley," October 14, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Montgomery Advisor, "Baxley, Cavanaugh meet in PSC presidency rematch," October 14, 2012
  5. Alabama Secretary of State "2012 Voter Guide"
  6. Georgia Public Service Commission, "Homepage," accessed May 25, 2012
  7. Georgia Secretary of State "Voting Information 2012"
  8. Georgia Public Service Commission, "Bio of Chuck Eaton," accessed June 29, 2012
  9. Marietta Daily Journal, "Public Service Commission races, contributions to Stan Wise warrant scrutiny," July 27, 2012
  10. Georgia Secretary of State, "2012 primary candidates," May 24, 2012
  11. Steve for Georgia, "Issues," accessed June 29, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Brad Ploeger Official Campaign Website, "Issues," accessed October 24, 2012
  13. Georgia Secretary of State, "2012 primary candidates," May 24, 2012
  14. Marietta Daily Journal, "Public Service Commission races, contributions to Stan Wise warrant scrutiny," July 27, 2012
  15. Atlanta Progressive News, "APN endorses Stapes and Ploeger for PSC," October 15, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 The, "Lacking funds, Roy withdraws from PSC race," September 10, 2012
  17. Times Picayune, "Public Service vice chairman announces he won't seek re-election," June 1, 2012
  18. ‘’Ed Roy Official Campaign Website, “Press Release:Roy challenges Angelle to “full-term” pledge,” August 14, 2012
  19. Louisiana Secretary of State, "Candidate inquiry," accessed August 16, 2012
  20. Louisiana Secretary of State, "Candidate inquiry," accessed August 17, 2012
  21. The Daily Comet, "Former state official runs for new office," October 15, 2012
  22. CBS News, "La. Governor's natural resources secretary resigns," August 9, 2012
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Tri-Parish Times & Business News, "Public utilities vacancy sought by field of 6," October 17, 2012
  24. Louisiana Secretary of State "Voting"