McDonald earns another term as Georgia utility regulator

    Georgia Public Service Commissioners Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, left, and Commissioner Jason Shaw embrace at an November Republican election rally at the Baldwin County Airport leading up to the Nov. 3 election. McDonald defeated Democrat Daniel Blackman in the Jan. 5 runoff. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

    Lauren “Bubba” McDonald is set to return for another term on the Public Service Commission that regulates how much Georgians pay for electricity and natural gas and shapes the state’s energy policy direction.

    McDonald became the lone Republican to win Tuesday’s runoff election as the Associated Press declared him the winner over Democrat Daniel Blackman. By Thursday morning, McDonald had about 2.2 million votes, giving him a 51,000 lead over Blackman. 

    McDonald will serve another six-year term on the board that oversees Georgia Power and some of the state’s natural gas, telecommunications, and commercial transportation providers.

    McDonald said he appreciates so many Georgians giving him their votes and will continue being an independent and conservative voice on the board. He said this upcoming term allows him to see through the completion of the Plant Vogtle nuclear reactor expansion as Georgia shifts away from polluting coal-fired power plants to cleaner forms of energy.

    “I am very dedicated to completing the two nuclear projects in Georgia, the first in over 37 years in America,” McDonald said. “It’ll be one of the best things that can happen for the consumers of Georgia, my grandchildren and their children. For the next 80 to 100 years, we’ll have some of the cleanest latest energy production of any state.”

    “On the nuclear side, I’ve got the bruises on my arm, knots on my head for being a proponent of nuclear energy,” he added. “We’ve had bumps in the road, but we’ll overcome that and it’ll be good for us.”

    Blackman, a Columbus native and former senior vice president for environmental affairs for Capital Fortitude Business Advisors, sought to become the only Democrat on the five-member PSC. Blackman campaigned as someone who would fight for consumers over the business-first interests of McDonald’s.

    But McDonald dismissed the notion that he signs off on whatever Georgia Power or other utilities and touted his experience serving 20 years in the state Legislature and another 16 years on the PSC.

    McDonald received more votes in the historic runoffs than fellow Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both lost their elections to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

    McDonald fared better than Perdue and Loeffler because of his name recognition and taking advantage of being visible in the public arena for so many years, said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University.

    McDonald also benefited by not relying on President Donald Trump’s support as much as the two senators, she said.

    “Because he’s been around for so long, people are more comfortable with him than they were with David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler,” Gillespie said. “I think that there’s a really important lesson there.”

     

    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.