Republican Brad Johnson wrapped up election night with his wife and some quiet time at home feeling pretty good about early results that saw him in the lead for public service commissioner in District 5. Johnson, the incumbent for the position, was running against Democrat Andy Shirtliff, who was throwing his hat in the political arena for the first time.
“Obviously, I’m very pleased,” Johnson said. “I really do consider the opportunity to serve on the commission as a privilege. I’m delighted in the strong show of support of the voters.”
Johnson considered his first four years on the commission as a learning curve and hopes to continue his work.
As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, Johnson had 55,720 votes (59 percent) and Shirtliff had 38,918 (41 percent).
Republican Randy Pinocci is the clear leader in the District 1 race for public service commissioner, with 60 percent and 38,032 votes as of 8 a.m. Wednesday. His opponent, Democrat Doug Kaercher, had 40 percent and 25,774 votes at that time.
District 1 incumbent Commissioner Travis Kavulla, a Republican, hit his term limit.
Pinnoci served in the Montana House in 2015 representing House District 19 and has worked with the PSC on legislation as a member of the Energy, Technology and Federal Relations committee.
Johnson has previously worked with Pinocci and believes he will be a solid team player.
“There will be continuity as we move forward,” Johnson said.
Pinocci said he is more qualified than his opponent and has great relationships with other PSC commissioners.
Keeping in touch with the people in the 19 counties he now represents is most important to Pinocci. He promises to get back out to all those counties and pick up his signs and asks that people hold onto them and call him instead of destroying them.
“Starting the evening with 81 percent of the vote was pretty darn exciting,” Pinocci said. “I appreciate my opponent. He was very professional and ran a clean campaign. I appreciate everyone’s vote and it is an honor to represent them.”
The Montana Public Service Commission is tasked with ensuring residents have access to affordable, reliable and sustainable utilities. The commission regulates private, investor-owned natural gas, electric, telephone, water and private sewer companies doing business in Montana. It also regulates certain kinds of motor carriers, including garbage trucks and passenger motor carriers, and oversees rail and pipeline safety regulations in the state.