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Our pick for Public Service Commission, District 2: Tim Echols

Forget about his ties to the religious right -- you'll be electing a regulator who stresses green energy and consumer rights

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WHY IT MATTERS: PSC members have more direct impact on Georgians' lives than most elected officials — by deciding how much we pay for electricity, cable TV and phone service. The next few years will be especially crucial. As Georgia Power starts building the country's first new nuclear reactors since the 1970s, the PSC will need to protect rate-payers from being treated like an ATM.

THE LOWDOWN: When Commissioner Bobby Baker, a long-serving and well-liked Republican who was considered the PSC's remaining consumer advocate, unexpectedly announced he wouldn't seek another term, he left a void in an agency that has grown increasingly chummy with the utilities it's supposed to regulate. Thankfully, we have two candidates who seem more interested in regulatory issues than in scoring free meals from lobbyists.

Both Republican Tim Echols, a Christian activist and political operative, and Democrat Keith Moffett, a Macon city official, have voiced support for "green" energy, conservation and consumer protections. Both are able, intelligent and took the high road by refusing to accept campaign contributions from utility interests. But Echols appears to have a firmer grasp of the issues and has been more visible on the campaign trail, visiting solar farms and power plants.

Echols has insisted he'll be a fair-minded consumer advocate and, from what we've seen, he's the best equipped to fulfill that promise.

OUTLOOK: Although commissioners have district residency requirements, they're elected statewide, a fact that favors Republican Echols.

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