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Former Mount Pleasant councilman, state lawmaker apply to be SC utility regulators

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Twenty-one candiates are seeking four seats on the S.C. Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state. File/Staff

The list of potential candidates for South Carolina's main utility regulator include a former state lawmaker, a previous Mount Pleasant councilman and three of the commission's current members.  

Altogether, 21 candidates are vying for four seats on the S.C. Public Service Commission, which is tasked with overseeing most of the electric providers in the state, among other businesses. 

The position pays an annual salary of $129,000.

It'll be up to the 170 lawmakers in the General Assembly to decide next year which of the candidates are chosen to oversee rate cases involving the state's largest water, electric and natural gas utilities. The commission is responsible for setting the monthly utility bills for a large portion of South Carolina's residents. 

The selection process has taken on outsized importance in recent years, following the failed $9 billion expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County two years ago. 

The seats on the panel are split up by the state's congressional district lines. Candidates this year could apply, if they had the right professional background, for the First, Third, Fifth and Seventh District seats.

The largest turnout was in the First District, which includes Charleston, with eight candidates applying by the noon deadline Friday. 

Among the crowded Lowcountry field is Harry "Chip" Limehouse III, a Charleston Republican who served in the State House from 1995 to 2016. 

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He's joined by Paul Gawrych, a former elected official from Mount Pleasant, who served on Town Council for 16 years. 

Other candidates for that seat include Alvin Johnson Jr., George "Robert" Newman, Lawrence Sullivan, Darryle Ware, Carolee “Carolyn” Williams. They will have to defeat incumbent John "Butch" Howard, who has been on the Public Service Commission for the past 15 years and is seeking another four-year term. 

Howard isn't the only incumbent looking to keep his job. 

Comer "Randy" Randall, the current chairman, also wants to stay on the commission. He's being challenged by Stephen “Mike” Caston, Kevin Evans and Santana Freeman. 

Swain Whitfield, who has served on the PSC since 2008, is also seeking to beat back a host of new candidates. His competition includes Luther Hendrix, Headen Thomas and Stephen Thomas. 

The only seat that doesn't have an incumbent in the race is the Seventh District, where O'Neal Hamilton is stepping down after 15 years. 

Five candidates applied to replace him: John Atkinson Jr., Alys Lawson, Bonnie Loomis, Thomas "Tee" Miller Jr. and Ted Vick.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistated how many years Paul Gawrych served on the Mt. Pleasant City Council. He served for 16 years. 

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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