Georgia voters will determine Tuesday the next person in charge of overseeing the state’s elections system and someone who will have a say in how much many residents pay on their electricity bills.
The Secretary of State and a Public Service Commission seat are the two statewide positions still up for grabs in Tuesday’s runoff. For some Georgians there may be some uncertainty about the duties those roles entail, how it impacts people living and doing business in the Peach State and what the candidates say they offer.
While the oversight the Secretary of State has with elections made headlines this year in the battle for governor between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, the job’s responsibility extends well beyond that.
Also, the next District 3 Public Service Commission member will spend the six-year term helping regulate telecommunications, transportation, electric and natural gas services in the state.
Republican and incumbent Chuck Eaton faces Democrat Lindy Miller for that seat on the commission that was formed by Georgia legislators in 1879 as a body to regulate the railroad industry.
“Today, five elected commissioners, supported by approximately 83 staff, make decisions that affect the lives of every Georgian each time a telephone is picked up, a light is turned on, a gas burner is used,” the Georgia PSC website says.
In the District 3 race, Eaton says his opposition’s “radical” ideas are being backed by liberal interest groups from other parts of nation, while Miller says Eaton’s efforts are being supported financially by groups connected to the utility interests he’s supposed to watch over.
The commission’s decisions, Eaton said, “impact Georgians’ wallets” and have played a role in the success of the business climate by keeping energy costs at a reasonable rate, he said in a statement.
“I will continue to serve as a consumer watchdog for Georgians, by fighting for diversified energy sources, low rates and a strong business climate,” Eaton wrote in an email. “That’s why I’m the only candidate who was endorsed by both the Chamber of Commerce and labor unions.”
Miller, a businesswoman who co-founded a renewable energy company, said she’ll bring some independence to a body that too often doesn’t look out for the best interest of residents.
“It is critical that Georgia families and small businesses make their voices heard,” she said in an email. “We could be doing so much more to lower our bills, create new, high-skilled jobs in the renewable energy economy and invest in infrastructure that lifts all Georgians.”
Secretary of State
Either former U.S. Rep. John Barrow or state Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) will become the next Secretary of State and lead a staff that also handles licensing for a number of jobs like nursing and plumbing, the registration of corporations and oversees the state’s securities market.
Barrow said the close outcome of some of the state’s elections this year show the reason why it’s critical that the Secretary of State manages a system that is fair for all voters and candidates.
There are also a large number of professionals and business owners who rely on the Secretary of State’s Office to have enough resources to handle the workload, Barrow said.
“I think we need to have someone that will advocate when it comes to the business community, advocate for professionals and advocate for the voters, no matter which party, when it comes to elections,” he said.
Attempts by The Telegraph to reach Raffensperger were unsuccessful.