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Republican wins PSC race; Appeals Court goes to education lawyer

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The results of the Public Service Commission race almost mirrored the results of the U.S. Senate race, as run-off voters cast ballots along party lines.

Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr., the Republican candidate for Public Service Commissioner, took an early lead, carrying 62.3 percent of the first counted precinct, and then maintained it to victory.

With 10 percent of the precincts counted, McDonald had 64.4 percent of the vote, a number closely trailing Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss'. Jim Powell, the Democrat running for the utilities commission seat, lagged with only 35.4 percent of the vote.

In Henry County, where Republicans hold the majority, McDonald pulled in 25,875 votes. Powell, who had been endorsed by labor unions and by former President Jimmy Carter, trailed by 6,821 votes.

In Clayton County, where Democrats dominate, Powell pulled in 83.7 percent of the vote, with 55 of the 60 precincts reporting.

Statewide, though, there were more Republican voters turning out to the polls, and Powell pulled in poor numbers. Even as the number from the Democratic strongholds came in, McDonald maintained his lead.

With 93 percent of the precincts reporting, according to the Secretary of State's web site, Powell had about 43 percent of the vote, and McDonald maintained 57 percent.

McDonald ran on a platform of "proper pricing and reliable service." As a member of the Public Service Commission, the entity responsible for regulating utilities and setting prices, McDonald claimed a record of reducing electric rates by more than $1.2 billion, resisting federal efforts to deregulate electric service, and lowering long-distance phone call costs by "expanding competition."

By 10 p.m., the unofficial results seemed to show an easy win for McDonald.

Without a partisan rudder, the statewide race for Appeals Court Judge wavered between Sara Doyle and Mike Sheffield.

When the first precincts were counted, Doyle, an attorney who specializes in civil litigation and education law, had the edge with 50 percent. Sheffield followed closely, though, with 49.8 percent of the vote.

By the time five percent of the state's precincts had been counted, the lead had leaned the other way, with Sheffield taking 50.5 percent of the vote and Doyle taking 49.5 percent.

The race was mostly unreported in the news, and the results seemed to be the same as if the voters were tossing a coin.

Neither the strongly Republican Henry County, nor the strongly Democratic Clayton County, showed voters decisively favoring one lawyer over the other. Henry County, with 37 of 40 precincts reporting, gave Sheffield 17,823 votes and gave Doyle 16,574 votes, a difference of less than 3 percent. In Clayton County, Sheffield held a slight lead, taking 51 percent of the first 10 precincts, and widening that to 53.4 percent, with half of the precincts reporting.

Though the race is officially non-partisan, Sheffield has a reputation for publicly taking the Republican side of hot-button issues. A criminal defense attorney and a former county prosecutor, he advertised his pro-life endorsement, and publicly took positions against gay marriage, and in favor of the death penalty.

Doyle responded by claiming she would be a judge who hadn't "pre-decided the issues," "one who will first evaluate the case facts and apply the law in a consistent, fair and reasonable manner."

As the race wrapped up, Doyle seemed to take, and hold, a small lead. With 50 percent of the state's precincts reporting, she held about a 3 percent lead. With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, she had about 51.7 percent of the votes, a lead of almost 49,000 votes.

Doyle hung on to that lead, as the counting came to a close, and by 10 p.m., she was leading. With 93 percent of the precincts reporting, Doyle had 51.7 percent of the vote and a 54,000-vote lead.