State law says a public service commissioner must live in the district he or she represents for at least a year before being elected. It also says a commissioner “must continue to reside in that district during the person’s term of office or that office shall thereupon become vacant." However, the law does not address residency requirements before an appointment.
Eaton’s third six-year term runs until 2024, but Johnson would have to run for the remainder of the term in 2022 if he wants to remain on the commission.
Johnson could vote on critical decisions regarding the two new reactors being built at Georgia Power’s Vogtle nuclear plant near Augusta. The $26 billion-plus plant is years behind schedule and billions over budget. Commissioners will have to decide how much Georgia Power can charge ratepayers for and on what schedule.
“With his diverse background and real-world leadership credentials, I know Fitz will work hard every day to ensure Georgia remains the top state for business and the best place to live, work, and raise a family," Kemp said.
Johnson would be the only current African American member of the commission. A lawsuit is challenging whether electing commissioners statewide discriminates against Black people. Eaton’s district would be heavily Democratic if only voters in its four counties chose the commissioner.
Eaton was appointed to replace Shawn Ellen LaGrua as a Fulton County Superior Court judge. Kemp named La Grua to the state Supreme Court in January. Hall said Tuesday the court will determine when Eaton is sworn in.
Eaton had been serving his third stint chairing the commission.
Like many down-ticket Republicans, Eaton narrowly won reelection in 2018, being forced into a runoff with Democrat Lindy Miller before beating her by about 50,000 votes, a 52% to 48% margin.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.