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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Angela Speir endorses Jim Powell for PSC

Angela Speir, the Public Service Commissioner who's stepping down after her current term ends and is widely considered an advocate for everyday Georgians, is endorsing Democratic candidate Jim Powell for her soon-to-be-open seat.

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"In this time of skyrocketing energy costs and with the elimination of the Consumers Utility Counsel, it's more important than ever to elect a good person to the Public Service Commission," Speir said. "Jim Powell has my vote,  endorsement, and prayers for his success."

Powell, a former official with the U.S. Dept. of Energy, has been fighting a back-and-forth residency battle with Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. Even after being booted from the ballot just days before the primary, he was granted a stay by a Fulton County Superior Court Judge and went on to garner 85 percent of the vote. The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case but has not yet set a date.

Speir, a Republican, urged voters to look past ideology and partisan affiliation  and vote for Powell in what many believe is going to be a top-down ballot. "Doing the right thing transcends political parties," she said.

Speir also stressed a need for voters to be aware of the differences between Powell and his opponent in the race, Lauren "Bubba" McDonald. Speir unseated McDonald on the commission in 2002.

Speir says it was in large part because of McDonald that she proposed new rules prohibiting private communications between the commission and the utility lawyers and lobbyists who argue before it. In a 2001 Georgia Power rate case, a lawyer for the Southern Co.-owned subsidiary e-mailed a proposed settlement to McDonald, who then sat on the commission. He printed it and read it as if it were his own idea, she said, and what followed was "theater." The commission ultimately approved the settlement.

"That resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars more for Georgians," she said.

"It's more important now than ever that people pay very close attention to what happens with the commission," she said. "I don't think people understand the impact it has on their daily lives."

As for her plans for life after office, Speir said she's still fielding offers and opportunities from various groups. No decision yet.

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