MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn drew pushback last year when he sought formal hearings on the rates charged by Alabama Power and natural gas companies.
This election season he is drawing opposition from three Republicans who disagreed with him and are seeking to unseat him from the state panel that regulates utilities in Alabama.
A quartet of Republicans are competing for Place 2 on the Public Service Commission - Dunn, media production company owner Jonathan Barbee, former Greene County Commission Chairman Chris "Chip" Beeker and Alabama Minority GOP chairman Phillip Brown. The GOP primary will be held June. 3. There is no Democrat in the race.
Dunn, 54, said he is running on his record, saying electrical rates have remained flat and there has been a small decrease in gas rates.
"We need somebody to look after the consumers and that's what I try to do. Let the consumers know what is going on and make sure that pendulum isn't swinging to the utility side like it has been for 30 years," Dunn said.
Dunn had urged the regulatory board to hold the first formal rate hearings in 30 years. His two fellow commissioners, also Republicans, disagreed and the board held informal reviews.
"I think it was the right thing to do because we never would have had an informal if I hadn't pushed for a formal hearing," Dunn said.
Dunn said he has been the subject of false accusations ever since.
"The fear of environmentalists and all that. That was just a scare tactic to change the subject. They started saying I was RINO (Republican in name only) and that didn't stick. So they started saying I was against coal. Coal is always going to stay in the mix," he said.
Brown, 48, is an automotive technology teacher at Minor High School in Birmingham. Brown is making his first bid for public office, but has been active and vocal in Republican politics for years.
He serves on the Alabama Republican Party steering committee. He is also chairman of the Alabama Minority GOP, a group that tries to broaden the party's reach to minorities.
Brown said he felt it was time to get off the sidelines and be an advocate for ratepayers.
"If they want somebody who will really stand up and speak for the citizens of Alabama, then their best option is me," Brown said.
"Our problem is not the EPA. It's not the federal government overreach. Our problem is the fact that we have way too many people in political circles who are politicians and not statesmen. People who do not have the courage and the common sense to understand what the problem is, seek a solution and then stand up on what they think the solution is and do it regardless of the public opposition," Brown said.