Georgia Public Service Commission District 3 Stephen Oppenheimer
ATLANTA -- A Republican fighting for another six-year term on Georgia's Public Service Commission says he supports policies that will reduce utility costs and help create jobs, while his Democratic opponent says the state must diversify its energy industry to spark job growth.
Commissioner Chuck Eaton faces Democrat Stephen Oppenheimer in the Nov. 6 election for the District 3 seat on the panel, which regulates electric and other utilities in the state. The district covers the metro Atlanta area.
Oppenheimer said the state should invest in sources like solar and wind. Oppenheimer also has criticized Eaton for his votes on the panel, including a 2010 vote to allow Georgia Power to impose a rate hike on residential customers.
Eaton, however, blames those increases on high fuel prices and expanding regulations from the Obama administration. He also notes he worked to approve a pre-summer rate cut for electric customers and pledges to work to keep utility rates low. The rate cut took effect June 1, ahead of the summer months when people tend to use more electricity to run air conditioners.
"It is clear that jobs and economic issues are on the minds of Georgia voters," Eaton said in an email.
Eaton, who is wrapping up his first term on the PSC, also noted he supported legislation that repealed a state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, which Gov. Nathan Deal has credited as an incentive for Caterpillar's decision to locate in the state.
Oppenheimer, 57, said that if elected to the PSC, he would work to modernize how the state produces and manages energy, saying that would help stabilize electricity rates. He said that includes diversifying the energy sector to include alternative sources such as solar, biofuels and offshore wind.
"There is a lot of potential for energy jobs in Georgia, the same way we see in other states around the South if we modernize our energy policy," Oppenheimer said.
Eaton's most recent campaign finance report for the period ending Sept. 30 shows he has spent more than $123,000 and has about $56,000 on hand. Oppenheimer's latest report shows he has spent about $90,000 and has slightly outraised Eaton so far, leaving him with about $90,000 on hand.
Also on the ballot is Libertarian Brad Ploeger, a 30-year-old small business owner who has raised little money for the race and reported $677 in cash on hand.
In District 5 representing western Georgia, incumbent Republican Stan Wise is facing Libertarian David Staples.
Campaign finance reports show Wise has spent more than $400,000, the vast majority against his primary challenger. Wise, who first won a seat on the PSC in 1994, faces no Democratic opponent and is the heavy favorite to win.
Staples reported having about $5,000 on hand going into the final weeks before Election Day.