Public Utilities Commissioner Race Heats Up Days from Election - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Public Utilities Commissioner Race Heats Up Days from Election

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With five days to go before the election, the latest poll from South Dakota, based on Nielson Brothers, shows some big changes in the race for Public Utilities Commissioner.   

Democrat Matt McGovern has pulled ahead of republican incumbent Kristie Fiegen, he now leads by six percent. Libertarian candidate Russell Clarke is in a distant third. 

Thanks to political ads and campaign signs, McGovern and Fiegen are household names, but many people are asking the question, what are they campaigning for? 

It's an office not many people have heard of, but it's one that affects our everyday life.  

The PUC helps to regulate utilities like electric, telephone, natural gas and even has some influence over wireless communication companies.    

"Since the citizens of South Dakota all need electricity for everything they do at home and in their business and the electric companies don't have any competition, the commission needs to make sure they are doing the right thing," said Libertarian candidate Clarke. 

That lack of competition in the Utilities sector is exactly why the PUC exists. 

"My number one goal is too keep utility costs down," said Republican incumbent Kristie Fiegen. 

There are three public utilities commissioners in South Dakota.  Together they must approve any rate increases proposed by utility companies.  Extensive research determines if an increase is justifiable.  

That's one of the main issues Democratic candidate Matt McGovern is targeting.  

"I wouldn't vote to approve any rate hike until they eliminate these wasteful expenses," said Matt McGovern. 

McGovern is using Xcel energy's latest rate hike request in his campaign message. 

"If they can pay their CEO 11 million dollars like they did last year and run a miniature airline with private jets to fly their executives around, they don't need that extra rate hike," said McGovern. 

But incumbent Kristie Fiegen said she has been fighting Xcel's rate increases for the last year and a half.  

"On the Xcel rate case, I worked extremely hard to fight for S.D. Consumers and we actually saved more than $6.5 million," said Fiegen.  

The PUC works to ensure that all South Dakota consumers have access to the highest quality utilities at fair prices. 

"If there were competition, you wouldn't need it, but since there isn't you do," said Clarke. 

The candidate who wins the election on November 6th will serve a six year term.

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