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A longtime incumbent faces a challenger in the GOP primary for the state Corporation Commission.

Dean Anderson June 13th, 2012

If you’ve ever flipped on a light switch or picked up a telephone in the state of Oklahoma, you’ve had a brush with the state Corporation Commission. Public utilities, oil and gas, retail gas stations, trucking and underground pipelines all fall under the regulatory domain of the commission.

Bob Anthony

And for the first time, Commissioner Bob Anthony is drawing a challenge within his own party. Certified public accountant Brooks Mitchell is challenging Anthony in the June 26 Republican primary. Since there is no Democratic challenger, the contest will determine who gets the seat on the three-person panel.

“It takes a lot of effort to oversee all of the functions of the agency. The last couple of years especially, I just haven’t seen Bob Anthony put forth the energy to do all of that,” Mitchell said.

But Anthony, at age 64, said he has plenty of energy to keep going after 24 years in office.

“I’m running for re-election because Oklahoma ratepayers need a fighter to stand up for them at the Corporation Commission. Oklahoma needs a commissioner who is dedicated to honesty and integrity and with the national standing to counter the federal attacks on Oklahoma jobs,” Anthony said.


Meet the candidates

Anthony said he’s most proud of helping clear corruption from the commission.

“Today the agency has a reputation for honesty and integrity, and I have a reputation for honesty and integrity and they don’t call us ‘the perjury palace’ anymore,” he said.

In other matters concerning the commission, Anthony said he opposes mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency to require multibillion dollar scrubbers installed in Oklahoma’s electric power plants, which could result in a 15 percent to 20 percent rate increase. He said he supports state oversight of oil and gas production, and opposes federal attempts to restrict such drilling techniques as hydraulic fracturing.

Although this is Mitchell’s first political race, he spent nine years at the Corporation Commission, six of those as director of administration, managing 430 employees and a $40 million budget.

“Participating at the highest levels of the commission, I gained an appreciation for how hard the job is and how much energy it takes. It’s a very diverse agency being the main regulatory agency in the state,” he said of the role he left in January of this year.

Brooks Mitchell
Mitchell said one of his chief goals is to update the agency’s technology.

“We need to become a 21st-century agency,” he said. “One vital need is a new case-processing system. It’s something that can be used agency-wide and will create efficiencies not only for the agency, but for people who practice at the agency and the citizens of Oklahoma.”


‘Seniority and standing’

Anthony said his tenure has solidified his pull with numerous industry agencies nationwide. “I have seniority and standing with numerous capacities that allow me to be infinitely more effective than any opponent who has filed,” he said.

Incumbency has helped give him a considerable leg up on fundraising. According to recent candidate filings, Anthony’s campaign has out-raised Mitchell more than 6 to 1, topping more than $260,000.

Anthony serves on industry panels, such as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Mitchell said those panels may look good on a résumé, but have little to no role affecting Oklahoma policy. He said he wrote much of the original language of Senate Bill 1434, which bolstered funding for the commission’s oil and gas division.

That funding, he said, will help clear inspection backlogs and prevent the EPA from intervening on the federal government’s behalf.

“It’s one thing to talk about doing it. It’s another to actually roll up your sleeves to make sure your agency has the tools it needs to be able to stand up to the EPA or anyone else,” Mitchell said.

 
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