Davante Lewis easily edged out Lambert Boissiere III in the PSC race | Local politics

Progressive policy advocate Davante Lewis defeated three-time Public Utilities Commissioner Lambert Boissier III on Saturday, handing a stunning loss to the incumbent and the utilities that supported him, with the help of big money from environmental groups looking to shake up the commission.

Lewis, 30, who lives in Baton Rouge and works for the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project, is running on a platform of making bold changes to the way Louisiana regulates utilities. He called for a faster transition to renewable energy sources, efforts to harden the electric grid in the face of increasingly powerful hurricanes, and a crackdown on excessive fees from Entergy and other utilities.

He becomes the first openly LGBTQ person elected to public office in Louisiana, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

With all early votes counted, plus Election Day votes from 738 of 748 precincts, Lewis had 59 percent of the vote, after getting just 18 percent in last month’s primary. He went on to the runoff after beating Boissiere’s three other challengers, two of whom later endorsed Lewis.

Both Lewis and Boissier are Democrats.

Lewis’ campaign put Boissier in the difficult position of defending the PSC’s work at a time when electric bills have soared, squeezing ratepayers, just a year after Hurricane Ida left millions without power, many for weeks.

Boissiere received much of his financial support from utilities, lobbyists and others with business before the commission, and his opponents routinely criticized his campaign finance.

Boissiere countered by criticizing Lewis for the support he received from out-of-state groups. In particular, Lewis benefited from Keep the Lights On, a super PAC largely funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, which raised over $1 million for the race.

The incumbent was also aided by two key allies: U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, whose district covers much of the same area as PSC District 3, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, who cut an ad for Boissiere in the early part of the campaign.

But Lewis was able to rally support from a network of advocacy groups and environmentalists who believe the commission has fallen asleep at the wheel regulating utilities at a time when climate change threatens the grid.

Boissiere belongs to a prominent political family and has served on the commission since 2005, giving him an edge in name recognition throughout the district, which stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

Voters and the media have historically paid little attention to the commission, an obscure five-member body. But it has attracted more interest recently after hurricanes exposed an aging and damaged power grid and bills soared due to high natural gas prices.

The commission is tasked with regulating utilities and setting electricity prices, among other things.

During the campaign, Lewis criticized Boissier and the PSC as helpless regulators who were asleep at the wheel. He promised to make bold changes to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources; strengthening the grid to better withstand hurricanes; and to deal with “exorbitant” utility charges. Lewis and Keep the Lights On also targeted Boissiere for taking campaign contributions from utilities the commission regulates.

Boissiere defended the PSC’s work, touting the steps the agency has already taken to approve solar farms and cap Entergy’s rates. He also noted that he is one of only two Democrats on the five-member body. Being a minority party, he said, makes it difficult for the PSC to move toward more progressive policies.

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