Increasing rural internet access, slowing down the flow of unwanted telemarketer calls, and boosting the state’s energy efficiency are top priorities for Republican Brent Bailey and Democrat De’Keither Stamps, the 2019 candidates for Central District public service commissioner.
Bailey, who lost the race four years ago but has served for six years as a clean energy advocate with the national renewable energy advocacy group 25x’25, said his years of experience appearing before the Public Service Commission qualifies him to serve as the district’s next commissioner.
“I will work every day to make sure we have the lowest possible utility rates, the most reliable and the safest out there available,” Bailey said. “If elected, I will be a full-time commissioner. I will be your watchdog. I’ll be ready to safeguard transparency, and I’ll be a responsible regulator.”
Stamps, who currently serves on the Jackson City Council, believes his experience in helping city entities find cost savings related to energy could be applied statewide.
“We’re going to be the most aggressive public service commissioner you’ve ever seen, focusing on the interests of our ratepayers and that our utilities are taken care of,” Stamps said. “Those folks in that industry provide great services when it comes to economic development and providing quality of life.”
Every four years, Mississippians elect three public service commissioners from the northern, central and southern parts of the state to regulate public utilities like telecommunications, electricity, water, gas and sewer.
In recent years, commissioners have been front and center in the controversy over the ballooning price tag of Mississippi Power’s planned Kemper County lignite coal power plant as well as in cracking down on unscrupulous telemarketers and advocating for the expansion of broadband internet to rural parts of the state.
Stamps and Bailey agreed with the commission’s decision to settle with the company and relieve its customers of paying for the project’s multibillion coal gasification technology.
The often overlooked regulatory body — “It ain’t sexy, but it’s important,” Bailey said on Monday — also works to ensure the state’s utility providers charge fair rates of the state’s residents.
The Central District commissioner seat is currently held by Democrat Cecil Brown, who has 24 years of governmental experience serving four terms in the House, the state’s chief fiscal officer and currently as one of the state’s three public service commissioners. Brown is retiring from state government after this year.
Four years ago, Brown defeated Bailey, who was the 2015 Republican nominee for the seat. The racial and voting age demographics of the district favors Democratic candidates, with Brown garnering 53 percent of the vote in 2015. Gov. Phil Bryant, the leader of the state Republican Party, endorsed Bailey’s opponent Nic Lott in the primary.
Third-term Democratic commissioner Brandon Presley is unopposed in November in the northern district. In the southern district, Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell, a Republican, faces Democrat Connie Moran, the former mayor of Ocean Springs.