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State candidates campaign here
stacey evans
Stacey Evans, a candidate for the Democratic nomination to run for governor, center, stands with members of the Liberty County Minority Chamber, after receiving the groups Smart Women Achieving Greatness Award. - photo by Photo provided.

State races are still a year away, but two candidates recently made stops in Hinesville.

Most recently, John Noel, a Democrat running for a seat on the Public Service Commission, visited Hinesville. Earlier Stacey Evans, a Democrat who is running for governor, spoke to members of the Liberty County Minority Chamber’s Smart Woman Achieving Greatness group.

The Atlanta-area attorney and state legislator is, among other things, a proponent of fully funding the HOPE scholarship.

“HOPE saved me,” Evans said during her visit on Oct. 7. “The HOPE scholarship gave me hope in the broader sense of the word. It got me to college, the first in my family to go there.”

Evans spoke of a rough childhood that included 16 different homes before she turned 18.

“I remember what it was like to come home and find that the lights had been shut off, and to see my mom struggle to put food on the table,” she said. “And I remember calling the police when one of my stepfathers dragged my mom through the yard, beating her … I remember feeling hopeless, powerless.”

Evans said college led to law school and later being elected a state lawmaker.

“I got some of the cuts (to HOPE) back, but not all of them. I kept getting stopped at the governor’s office,” she said. “And that’s why I’m running for governor. I’m running to bring hope and opportunity to all Georgia families.”

Evans said she wants to make technical school in Georgia tuition free for everyone. She also wants to see Georgia institute a living minimum wage, expand Medicaid, institute universal pre-K beginning at age 2 while investing more in school.

She said she also wants to see “comprehensive civil rights legislation in Georgia,” that will “provide state protections against discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Evans, facing a tough primary fight against fellow Democrat Stacey Abrams, told members of SWAG that everyone has the same concerns.

“Can I pay my mortgage, will my job be there next year, how will I send my kids to college, do my children’s schools live up to their promise?” she said. “When we remember that, and focus on these issues, and speak to them with progressive solutions like closing wage disparities, free technical education, and Medicaid expansion, we win votes, across the state and from Georgians of all stripes.”

Liberty Minority of Chamber founder Sabrina Newby said Evans was invited because, “Anyone who has a viable opportunity to impact the lives of the citizens of Liberty County, I believe, should speak directly to the citizens of Liberty County. Transparency politics is a must.”

Evans received the chamber’s SWAG award because “she is just that. We presented the award to Stacey Abrams as well. To be a woman who isn’t afraid to lead, that should be recognized.”

Public Service Commission

On Oct. 12, Noel stopped by the Coastal Courier “to introduce” himself.

A former state lawmaker from Atlanta, Noel is running for the PSC as a Democrat, though he said he thinks the races should be nonpartisan.

“To me it’s more about good administration than it is about good politicking,” he said. “It’s also about making the monopolies that we have granted to companies such as Georgia Power, making them act in ways that are beneficial to the rate payers they are serving. The only check against them is the Public Service Commission, which is intended to serve the public. My concern it is serving the utility companies.”

While the PSC is one of the least understood government commission in Georgia, it is responsible for regulating utilities in the state.

And apparently no utility is in more need of regulating at the moment than Georgia Power, according to Noel.

“The big enchilada right now is Plant Vogtle,” Noel said, referring to the expansion of the nuclear plant in Waynesboro.

The company maintains it will need the additional capacity to handle rising demands for energy as the state population increases.

Noel, who owns Energy+Environment LLC, an energy efficiency company, said Georgia Power doesn’t need extra capacity, and cost overruns could double the estimated price from $14 billion to more than $28 billion before it’s finished.

The cost is being made up through a nuclear recovery fee that’s already being passed on to smaller customers and government accounts, according to Noel, who said the Richmond County School System alone could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the expansion.

“How many teachers would that pay for?” Noel asked. “The PSC is supposed to ask the tough questions and stand up for our interests, and stand up to the utilities. Instead they’re rubber stamping everything they can get their hands on, and beyond that they’re not being aggressive with regard to new technology.”

Noel, who during his stop in Liberty visited Clay Sikes, the founder of Coastal Solar, claims solar power is the cheapest source of power available to utilities at this point.

“Coal is not cheap, natural gas is not cheap, nothing is as cheap as solar, and yet we continue to bury ourselves in this continually more expensive endeavor (Plant Vogtle).”

According to Noel, Georgia Power could build a solar system capable of matching the output 12,000 megawatts of a nuclear reactor for $2.4 billion.

“And it just so happens right now it’s $28 billion, which is 10-plus times more to build a nuclear plant than it is to build a solar system and do it right.”

And that’s capitalism, Noel said, it’s the way the free market should work.

“What we’ve got right now is crony capitalism, a cozy situation between the regulators and the electric company,” he said.

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