MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn is being challenged in next year's Republican primary by former Greene County Commissioner Chris "Chip" Beeker.
Beeker announced his candidacy Monday for the primary on June 3, 2014. Dunn said he plans to seek a second term, but he won't make a formal announcement until later. No Democrat has announced.
Beeker ran for the PSC in 2010, but lost the Republican primary to Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who's now the commission president
Beeker said he's running again because he's concerned federal environmental policies are killing Alabama coal-mining jobs, and environmentalists are trying to push those policies through the PSC.
"I will do all that is in my power to protect our state from the overreach of the federal government and the liberal environmentalists who are pushing these job-killing policies," Beeker said.
Dunn said he will run on his record, including pushing for a review of the rates charged by Alabama Power, Alabama Gas and Mobile Gas. Dunn said Alabama Power's rate structure hadn't received a detailed review in 30 years and the natural gas utilities had also gone many years without one. He wanted a formal review, which is like a court proceeding, but the other two commissioners decided to hold informational meetings, which is a more relaxed proceeding.
The Mobile Gas process is finished, the Alabama Power is ongoing, and the Alabama Gas hasn't started yet. The PSC has not voted yet on any rate changes. Dunn said the format wasn't what he wanted, but he anticipates it will be fruitful. "I expect the rates to come down," Dunn said.
Beeker said he favored the informal process over the formal review advocated by Dunn.
Dunn said some powerful people in Montgomery warned him that he would draw opposition if he pushed for a review of rates, and he expects more candidates to enter the race. He said PSC policies aren't affecting coal industry jobs in Alabama. Jobs are declining because of coal-fired plants switching to natural gas due to low rates, Dunn said.
Dunn, 53, was a construction company owner in Southside when he ran for the PSC in 2010, defeating Democratic incumbent Susan Parker.
Beeker, 65, owns Beeker Catfish and Cattle Farms in Eutaw. He was elected to the Greene County Commission as a Democrat in 1986, switched to the Republican Party in 1996, and served on the commission until 2006. As a Republican, he was a political rarity in a section of west Alabama traditionally run by Democrats.