Q A Georgia Governor

In this July 7, 2021, photo Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during an interview at his campaign office in Atlanta. Kemp won the 2018 Republican primary for Georgia governor propelled by grassroots conservatives and a late endorsement from then-President Donald Trump. He went on to beat Democrat Stacey Abrams. Ahead of his Saturday reelection campaign launch, The Associated Press talked to Kemp about the race ahead, Abrams, Trump and the new Georgia political landscape. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is naming businessman Fitz Johnson to fill a vacancy on the state Public Service Commission.

Kemp on Wednesday announced he would tap Johnson, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the Cobb County Commission last year, to fill a vacancy on the commission created when Kemp on Tuesday named commissioner Chuck Eaton to fill a superior court vacancy in Fulton County.

The commission regulates private, for-profit utilities including Georgia Power Co. and Atlanta Gas Light Co., meaning its decisions affect the pocketbooks of millions of Georgians.

Johnson is the former owner of the Atlanta Beat women’s professional soccer team and a retired Army officer. He also ran unsuccessfully for state school superintendent in 2014. Johnson has been a trustee of the Cobb-based Wellstar Health System and the Kennesaw State University Foundation and a state charter school commissioner.

The commissioners are elected statewide but must reside in particular districts. Johnson would represent the 3rd District, which includes Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Rockdale counties. Johnson lived in the Vinings area of Cobb County when he ran for the county commission, but Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall says Johnson now lives in Fulton County.

State law says a public service commissioner must live in the district he or she represents for at least a year before being elected. It also says a commissioner “must continue to reside in that district during the person’s term of office or that office shall thereupon become vacant." However, the law does not address residency requirements before an appointment.

Eaton’s third six-year term runs until 2024, but Johnson would have to run for the remainder of the term in 2022 if he wants to remain on the commission.

Johnson could vote on critical decisions regarding the two new reactors being built at Georgia Power’s Vogtle nuclear plant near Augusta. The $26 billion-plus plant is years behind schedule and billions over budget. Commissioners will have to decide how much Georgia Power can charge ratepayers for and on what schedule.

“With his diverse background and real-world leadership credentials, I know Fitz will work hard every day to ensure Georgia remains the top state for business and the best place to live, work, and raise a family," Kemp said.

Johnson would be the only current African American member of the commission. A lawsuit is challenging whether electing commissioners statewide discriminates against Black people. Eaton’s district would be heavily Democratic if only voters in its four counties chose the commissioner.

Eaton was appointed to replace Shawn Ellen LaGrua as a Fulton County Superior Court judge. Kemp named La Grua to the state Supreme Court in January. Hall said Tuesday the court will determine when Eaton is sworn in.

Eaton had been serving his third stint chairing the commission.

Like many down-ticket Republicans, Eaton narrowly won reelection in 2018, being forced into a runoff with Democrat Lindy Miller before beating her by about 50,000 votes, a 52% to 48% margin.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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