PSC’s Wise to quit after Vogtle vote so governor can appoint successor

Public Service Commission Chairman Stan Wise

Public Service Commission Chairman Stan Wise

Georgia Public Service Commission Chairman Stan Wise plans to resign after a crucial vote in February on the future of the controversial Plant Vogtle project.

Wise had announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in 2018.

But what Wise, a resident of Cobb County who has served 23 years on the commission, didn’t say was that he didn’t plan to fill out his term. That will allow Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a replacement, who will then have a leg up in the 2018 elections as an incumbent commissioner.

Incumbents seldom lose such races, and their campaigns usually reap the benefits of contributions and other gifts from those interested in the actions of the utility-regulating commission.

In a letter to Deal on Oct. 17, Wise wrote: “My announcement was silent on whether I intend to serve out my current term. After careful thought, I have decided that early next year, I will resign, creating a vacancy mid-term.”

Wise told the governor he has “unfinished business” at the PSC. He said the commission has a “critical vote” in February as part of the body’s determination whether to continue or cancel the Plant Vogtle project.

“As an unabashed supporter of nuclear power,” Wise wrote, “I intend to be present for that vote and will resign shortly thereafter so that you may appoint my successor prior to the (candidate) qualifying period for the 2018 elections.”

His announcement earlier this month that he planned to stay around for the vote was seen as a clear signal that Georgia Power and its utility partners would be able to continue the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Chuck Eaton, the only other member of the five-member PSC whose term expires in 2018, has already fielded Democratic opposition.

Among the names being floated for Wise’s seat, which covers a stretch of territory west of metro Atlanta, are Republican activists Tricia Pridemore and Justin Tomczak. Political insiders have also said some Georgia state senators are looking at the race.