ATLANTA (AP) — Republican Jason Shaw has won a term on Georgia’s Public Service Commission, while GOP incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and Democrat Daniel Blackman are headed to a January runoff.
Shaw narrowly defeated Democrat Robert Bryant for a full six-year term on the utility regulator after being appointed in 2019 by Gov. Nathan Deal.
McDonald has been on the commission for 22 years and led Blackman, but didn’t win a majority. Libertarian Nathan Wilson won enough votes to force the race to a runoff.
The Associated Press called the races Friday as counties certified their vote totals. The state will not certify victors until next week, after a hand recount of all the ballots for the presidential race.
The statewide runoff between McDonald and Blackman would normally have been held Dec. 1, but Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger shifted it to Jan. 5 on Wednesday. Raffensperger invoked his power to shift elections because of the pandemic to push the race back to the same day as twin U.S. Senate runoffs, one between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff and one between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Shaw, a former state House member, owns an insurance service business and an olive farm. He ran statewide, but represents a district which includes Savannah, Columbus and areas south to the Florida state line. The Lakeland resident argued he’s striking the right balance between utility and consumer interests.
Bryant, who lives in Savannah, argued the commission too often favors Georgia Power Co. in supporting construction of two additional reactors for $25 billion at Vogtle nuclear plant near Waynesboro. He also criticized Shaw for lifting the moratorium on service cutoffs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and called for more emphasis on solar power. Libertarian Elizabeth Melton was also on the ballot.
McDonald has also been a consistent supporter of Georgia Power Co.’s multibillion dollar Vogtle nuclear plant.
Blackman, a senior vice president for environmental affairs, said he wants to shift some of the burden of Vogtle back to the utility. The winner will have to deal with Vogtle’s ultimate impact on customer bills.
McDonald and Blackman ran statewide, but represent a district which includes Augusta, Gainesville, Rome and areas north to the state line.
Democratic challengers also attacked Republican incumbents for letting utilities resume cutting off service for unpaid bills.