Political Notes — Former lawmaker Noel will run for PSC, takes aim at Vogtle overruns

[private]Atlanta business owner and former Democratic legislator John Noel announced Wednesday that he’ll run for the Public Service Commission in 2018.

Noel, an alternative energy consultant, said he’ll run for the District 3 seat currently held by Commissioner Chuck Eaton, who would be running for a third term on the regulatory panel.

In announcing his campaign, Noel immediately took on what will likely be the defining issue in the race: the massive cost overruns and schedule delays in the Plant Vogtle nuclear project and whether Georgia Power’s ratepayers will be saddled with paying off more overruns.

“There has been a lack of proper oversight for certain recent projects and it’s time for that to change,” Noel said.

“There is no excuse for something that is paid for by Georgia ratepayers, that’s billions of dollars over budget, and that’s years behind schedule and is at risk of never providing benefit for the little guys and everyday people who’ve footed the bill,” he said.

Noel’s early entry into the race is noteworthy because, in recent years, this down-ballot office has not attracted many credible Democratic candidates. Partly as a result, the PSC is now comprised of five Republicans.

For the past few election cycles, incumbent Republican commissioners have had only token opposition or in some instances no Democratic opposition: that was the case with Stan Wise in 2012, Doug Everett in 2014, and Tim Echols in 2016.

The last Democrat to seriously contend for a PSC seat was Jim Powell in 2008, when he led Bubba McDonald in the general election tally but didn’t make it to 50 percent and lost the subsequent runoff.

The seats held by Wise and Chuck Eaton are both up for election next year.

Energy consultant Jim Clarkson, a longtime observer of PSC activities, described the current members of the commission this way:

“At a time when we need experienced, tough-as-nails businessmen with drive-the-money-changers-from-the-temple attitudes to make the hard decisions about liquidating a bad project (Plant Vogtle), placing responsibility where it belongs and cutting losses, we have instead dingbats, wimps and utility stooges.”

Noel made a splash in 2002 when, as a political unknown, he upset veteran legislator Billy McKinney in the Democratic primary runoff to win McKinney’s House seat.  He subsequently lost to Sheila Jones when he ran for reelection in 2004 and has been out of office ever since.

Abrams kicks it off

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) kicks off her campaign for governor this weekend in what would seem like an unlikely locale:  Albany in southwest Georgia.

She’ll be launching her statewide campaign in an area of the state where she doesn’t reside that is located in one of the state’s least populous areas.

Albany is also the home district of one of her most persistent critics within the House Democratic caucus, Rep. Winfred Dukes (D-Albany).

Dukes lost a close caucus election last fall when he ran against Abrams for minority leader and has criticized her leadership strategies.  Dukes has also expressed private reservations about the wisdom of Abrams running for governor next year.

Regardless, Albany seems to be the spot where Abrams will get that campaign underway.

8,000 new voters in the 6th

The extended registration period for people living in the 6th Congressional District has resulted in nearly 8,000 eligible voters being added to the rolls for the June 20 runoff election between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff.

The secretary of state’s office said 7,942 people, to be precise, have either signed up as newly registered voters or had their residency changed because they moved into the 6th District from another district.

Cagle appointment

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has appointed Jeff Muir, a senior partner in two private investment firms, to board of Invest Georgia, a state-operated venture capital program for innovative new businesses.

Muir is a partner in Fulcrum Equity Partners and was a co-founder and former co-managing partner of Chatham Capital.

“Jeff’s extensive knowledge and experience adds immense value to Invest Georgia as we work to make Georgia the Silicon Valley of the South,” Cagle said.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: 6th Congressional District runoff , Invest Georgia , John Noel , PSC , Stacey Abrams