PSC race draws allegations of corruptionIn a race that has drawn allegations of corruption and radical environmentalism, three candidates were seeking a seat on the North Dakota Public Service Commission in Tuesday’s election.
By: By Marino Eccher, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK – In a race that has drawn allegations of corruption and radical environmentalism, three candidates were seeking a seat on the North Dakota Public Service Commission in Tuesday’s election.
Republican state Sen. Randy Christmann faced Democratic energy policy specialist Brad Crabtree and a Libertarian Party candidate to fill an open seat on the three-member state board that regulates a range of industries, including gas and electric utilities and telecommunications.
As of 9:30 p.m., Christmann had 54 percent of the vote to Crabtree’s 41 percent with 167 of 426 precincts reporting incomplete and unofficial results. Libertarian Joshua Voytek had 5 percent.
Crabtree, 43, from Ellendale, sought to make the race a referendum on the PSC’s campaign finance practices. He said the willingness of current commissioners to accept campaign money from groups and individuals tied to companies the PSC regulates directly is unethical and vowed not to do so himself.
Crabtree also raised the issue when he ran for the PSC in 2010, losing to current commissioner Kevin Cramer, who is running for the state’s sole seat in the U.S. House.
Christmann, 52, from Hazen, has defended the practice as ethical. Like the current commissioners, he has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from regulated interests.
He instead sought to paint Crabtree as a radical environmentalist who would be beholden to renewable energy groups and other similar interests.
One of his most pointed attacks was against Crabtree’s home, a straw bale house near Kulm that for a time was powered by its own wind turbine. Crabtree said the house was a personal choice with roots in prairie tradition in sustainability, but that it isn’t for everyone.
Christmann has been a state senator since 1994. Both he and Crabtree are also ranchers.
The Republican has touted his legislative and agriculture experience. He also serves as a paid board member for a telecommunications company regulated by the PSC.
Crabtree, meanwhile, has emphasized his track record in energy policy and ability to make nonpartisan decisions. He is currently the policy director of the Great Plains Institute, a Minneapolis-based energy policy group.
Voytek, a 28-year-old Libertarian from Fargo, also ran for the Public Service Commission in 2010. His platform focused on independent decision-making and reigning in the PSC’s regulatory scope.
As of press time, Crabtree had 39,805 votes, Christmann had 52,012 and Voytek had 4,438.