Louisiana utility regulators will face election challengers; election qualifying ends Friday

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

A familiar name from a well-known Louisiana family is making a longshot bid to return to the state’s Public Service Commission.

John F. Schwegmann is the former CEO of the Schwegmann supermarket chain his father started. He also succeeded his father on the PSC, serving 15 years as a Democrat before losing reelection in 1996 to Republican Jay Blossman.

Now an independent, Schwegmann is challenging Eric Skrmetta, who has chaired the commission for much of his tenure and has the endorsement of the state GOP.

Also competing in the PSC’s District 1, which includes suburban areas outside New Orleans, are Green Party member William Boartfield Jr. of Harvey and Republican Richie Sanderson II of New Orleans.

Democrat Foster Campbell, who has been on the commission since 2003, will have at least one challenger for the PSC’s District 5 seat in Republican Shane Smiley of Monroe. Campbell served in the state Senate from 1976 to 2002 and has run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and governor. Smiley is a member of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury.

The PSC has jurisdiction over utilities providing electric, water, wastewater, natural gas, and telecommunication services, as well as all the electric cooperatives in Louisiana. The Commission also regulates intrastate transportation services including passenger carrier services, waste haulers, household goods carriers, non-consensual towing and intrastate pipelines.

Entities the PSC regulates must seek the commission’s approval before raising rates. Commissioners serve staggered six-year terms.

All candidates regardless of party will compete on the same ticket in November. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two will advance to a runoff.

Candidate qualifying for the PSC, Congress, the state Supreme Court and other offices opened Wednesday and closes Friday.