1819 News spoke with Public Service Commission candidate Robert McCollum (R) about the upcoming Republican Primary runoff for Public Service Commission Place 2. McCollum surprised many political observers by his overtaking of perennial candidate Robin Litaker to be in the GOP runoff with incumbent Chip Beeker.
“I think voters are tired of politicians who are concerned only with their self-interest and glorified bribes,” McCollum told 1819 News when asked about the surprising strength of this candidacy. “I will not be a yes man. I will not vote for every rate increase. I will ask questions and I will make decisions that are fair to the consumer.”
When asked about the fee that people with solar panels have to pay, McCollum said, “I think it needs to be repealed,” adding that he considered the “sun tax” to be “extortion.”
McCollum said that he did favor formal hearings to determine rates for power and natural gas.
“I support a combination of coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, and I fully support natural gas,” McCollum said of the mix of power sources for energy in Alabama.
“I want to keep that disaster out of Alabama,” McCollum said of wind turbines, citing the risk of the turbines coming down in Alabama’s severe weather. “States that rely on wind power have blackouts constantly.”
There are also complaints about the unsightliness of the wind turbine towers, and the thousands of birds killed by the towers during normal operations.
McCollum said that it is important that the state be “energy efficient” and promised that he would work to “Protect our power grid.”
McCollum said he wants to keep pipelines safe and regulate municipal sewer systems, as well as privately-run sewer systems.
As for his campaign, McCollum said its been a grassroots effort. He also criticized his opponent, incumbent Commissioner Beeker, a former Greene County Commissioner.
“He was a Democrat,” McCollum said. “He switched to the Republican party to run for PSC...I have got a problem with someone trying to use his office for personal gain."
McCollum chastised Beeker for attempting to lease his 451-acre farm in Greene County to a solar company contracted with Alabama Power for $500 an acre while he was a member of the PSC, a deal that was blocked by the Alabama Ethics Commission as a conflict of interest.
In the days prior to the primary, there were a number of text messages sent out to likely Republican voters across Alabama attacking Litaker for her alleged ties to environmental extremists.
“I had nothing to do with that whatsoever,” McCollum told 1819 News. “I didn’t have the money for that.”
McCollum attends Lebanon Baptist Church in rural Tallapoosa County. He is a small businessman, who recently owned a U-Haul rental store. He owns a vending machine company and is also in construction.
Even though there are two PSC places available, there are no PSC districts. Both run statewide and will be on the same ballot. The PSC president is voted on in presidential election years.
The primary runoff is June 21. Anyone registered to vote, who did not vote in the Democratic primary on May 24, is eligible to participate in the Republican primary runoff.
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