Today’s Courier Herald Column:
When deciding between voting for an incumbent and a challenger, I generally opt for the opposite of the “throw all the bums out” mentality. Public service is often a thankless job these days. It is easy to Monday morning quarterback and second guess complex policy decisions as if it were a sport. Generally, if an incumbent looks and acts responsive to his or her constituents and appears to have some coherent plan for his or her upcoming term, they will get the benefit of the doubt on a close call.
To get that benefit of the doubt, however, there has to be some evidence that the public servant is actually a servant of the voters. The best way to demonstrate that is to actually campaign and attend a few public forums that aren’t high dollar fundraisers exclusively within the domain of either the party faithful or from the industries the candidate will regulate.
Stan Wise, first elected in 1994, appears to have grown comfortable with his six figure taxpayer salary and additional perks provided by both taxpayers and lobbyists. He no longer projects any interest in appearing before the voters to ask for our continued vote. On Sunday, Wise skipped yet another debate with the Atlanta Press Club, as he did during his recent Republican Primary. It’s time to consider other alternatives.
Wise’s lone challenger is David Staples, a Cobb County Georgia resident running as a Libertarian. The Democrats did not field a candidate for this race. As such, Staples should start with roughly 30% of the vote that is anti-Republican.
It will be a tall order for Staples to fill the remaining gap to unseat a Republican who has long been part of the Party establishment. Yet Republicans have grown uneasy watching those they have elected grow close to those they regulate, and often wonder now if our elected officials represent us or the lobbyists that so frequently take them to dinner or on trips.
This race represents an opportunity for “good Republicans” to send a message to their elected establishment candidates whose votes reflect too close an association with lobbying interests. Voting against Wise in the general election will not put a Democrat in office. It would, however, put real teeth behind the message sent in July when primary voters demanded gift caps as part of a way to re-balance the interests of the people with the interests of the lobbyists at the Capitol.
Staples is green, but capable and qualified to serve. Unlike many Libertarians, he doesn’t seem stuck on grinding every argument to its philosophical conclusion that would have no practical application in the real world. His background as a telecom & IT engineer lends itself to pragmatic and real world solutions, as well as gives him the technical knowledge required to digest and question the staff reports prepared by the professional PSC staff to vote on complex issues that affect all of our utility bills.
Perhaps most importantly, he has a healthy skepticism toward the current climate of how the PSC operates without being hostile to any specific form of power or the companies that provide services under the PSC’s domain. That is the proper mindset needed on the Commission in place of Wise’s current rubber stamp.
Many grass roots Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated at the political tone deaf nature toward lobbyists gifts from those which they helped elect. The candidacy of David Staples gives them the opportunity to vote for someone who believes in free markets and lower taxes. They can do so knowing they won’t be helping to elect a Democrat to a statewide office.
Part of the job of the PSC is to look at long term planning when deciding what is best for the rate payers of Georgia’s utilities. Republicans who value ethics and want to send a message to the Republican establishment should strongly consider that the best way to help the core values of the Republican Party in Georgia is to vote for this Libertarian for the PSC.
My vote is for David Staples.