Britton defeats Blanton in race for Mississippi PSC

It appears Tom Blanton, who for years has battled Mississippi Power over its Kemper power plant and the rate increases designed to pay for it, came up short in his quest to gain a seat on the Public Service Commission that regulates the utilities.

The Associated Press declared Republican Sam Britton the winner as he led Democrat Blanton 106,318 to 63,353 with 83 percent of precincts reporting. Reform Party candidate Lonny Spence was a distant third with 3,594.

Neither Blanton nor Britton returned calls Tuesday night.

The election, though, was all about Kemper, the plant that is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

Blanton took an appeal of an 18 percent rate increase all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this year the increase was improper and ordered money collected under it returned to customers. Mississippi returned to the PSC for an emergency rate increase, which the PSC granted temporarily. The utility also prepared to return millions to ratepayers in the coming weeks.

The PSC will consider making the emergency increase permanent next week.

Britton has said Mississippi Power would have to prove to him that any construction costs were prudent before he would vote to have ratepayers pay for them.

Brandon Presley, the lone vote against Kemper on the PSC, easily won election in the Northern District. Central District Commissioner Lynn Presley didn't run for re-election and Democrat Cecil Brown and Republican Brent Bailey are locked in a tight race with Brown leading by 333 votes with 46 percent of precincts in at press time.

Neither of them are fans of Kemper rate increases.

Also in the Southern District, AP has Republican Tom King winning re-election with a 115,950 to 52,202 lead over Democrat Chad Toney. Reform candidate Sheranda Atkinson had 4,370 with 83 percent of the precincts in. Republican incumbent Mike Tagert was the projected winner in the Northern District over Democrat Danny Woods but the Central District race between Republican Commissioner Dick Hall was too close to call with Hall leading Democratic challenger Mary Coleman 76,743 to 70,319 with 73 percent of precincts reporting.