HELENA – Democrat Galen Hollenbaugh and Republican Brad Johnson filed Tuesday to run for the state Public Service Commission in northwest Montana’s District 5, rounding out the field in the now three-person race for the open seat.
Hollenbaugh, a state representative from Helena, appears to be the only Democrat in the race for District 5, where incumbent Commissioner Bill Gallagher, R-Helena, is not running for re-election.
Johnson, a former Montana secretary of state who lives in East Helena, will compete against former state Rep. Derek Skees of Whitefish in the Republican primary election in June. District 5 covers six counties, stretching from Helena to Polson to Kalispell and along the Rocky Mountain Front.
The five-member PSC, controlled entirely by Republicans, regulates electric, gas, telephone and water utilities in the state.
The only other PSC seat up for election this year is District 1 in north-central and northeast Montana, where Commissioner Travis Kavulla of Great Falls so far is unopposed.
The deadline for candidates to file is Monday. PSC candidates must pay a $979.80 filing fee.
Hollenbaugh, 45, who works as operations bureau chief of the Business Standards Division in the Department of Labor, said he’s running for the commission because he thinks the PSC should do more to control energy costs for consumers.
The current commission “just rubber-stamps rate increases without much scrutiny,” he said Tuesday.
Hollenbaugh noted that the current commission voted 3-2 last month not to require NorthWestern Energy to provide some additional information on how its proposed purchase of 11 hydroelectric dams would affect ratepayers. He said he would have voted to require NorthWestern to provide the information.
Johnson, 62, said he is “uniquely qualified” to serve on the commission, given his experience as secretary of state and state Land Board member and success as a small-business owner.
He also said he’s been endorsed by former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, a Republican who served Montana as a senator from 1989 to 2006.
In a statement released late Monday by Johnson, Burns said Johnson has been “an honest, positive professional, a principled conservative and a good leader,” and urged people in District 5 to vote for Johnson.