by mark ballard
Capitol news bureau
December 05, 2012
With nearly all the votes counted late Tuesday, former Jindal administration leader, Scott A. Angelle, appeared to have won the race to become the new state utility regulator representing Baton Rouge, Houma and Lafayette areas .
Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, had more than half the votes cast, leading Democrat Forest Wright, of New Orleans, state Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, and two other candidates in the race for the District 2 seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
With 747 of 753 precincts reporting, Angelle had 204,814 ballots — or 57 percent of those counted — to Wright’s 73,311 votes and Ponti’s 42,312 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Republican Sarah Holliday, of Baton Rouge, had 27,303 votes and Greg Gaubert, No Party-Thibodaux, polled 11,446 votes.
Angelle, 50, was the interim lieutenant governor, former secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources and lobbied legislators on behalf of Gov. Bobby Jindal. He raised the most money in the race. Angelle ran on his experience bringing diverse interests together on complex and costly issues.
Ponti, 47, chairs the Louisiana House Commerce committee, which oversees the PSC. He is a general contractor who ran as small businessman who is sensitive to the impact of regulatory decisions.
The five-elected PSC members, who represent more people than congressmen, oversee the private companies that sell electricity, natural gas, water, telephone and other services, along with regulating tow trucks, moving companies, and other transportation businesses.
The District 2 seat was the only one up for election this fall.
Utility companies operate as monopolies in their service areas. The PSC is allowed to oversee the private companies’ decisions because those choices impact customers who have no alternative with whom they do business.
Key responsibilities of the Public Service Commission include setting rates for Louisiana customers’ energy and water bills, evaluating and approving new power plant projects, protecting consumers from imprudent utility charges, permit enforcement for Louisiana’s motor carriers, and implementing programs like the telecommunications “Do Not Call” list, which prohibits telemarketers from telephoning people who request that they not receive such calls.
Wright, 35, is an energy policy expert who regularly attends PSC meetings. He argued that his knowledge of utility regulation issues currently being debated by the PSC and his understanding of the regulatory processes will help get the work done.
The newly redrawn 2nd PSC district covers all or part of 13 parishes, stretching from the northern parts of Livingston Parish, including south Baton Rouge and Central, south to the Gulf Coast and west to include parts of the Acadiana parishes of Lafayette, Iberia and St. Martin parishes.