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Democratic candidate for governor says he'd fire Ohio utility regulators

The corruption scandal involving the nuclear plant bailout law known as House Bill 6 is likely to be a centerpiece of Democratic campaigns in Ohio next year.

The governor selects members of the state’s utility regulator, so one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates running against incumbent Republican Mike DeWine is zeroing in on that early.

Nearly 40 years ago, newly elected Democratic Gov. Dick Celeste demanded the resignations of the state’s Public Utilities Commissioners after campaigning that they’d allowed too many rate increases.

Cincinnati mayor John Cranley said he’ll do the same, noting the nuclear plants' former owner, FirstEnergy, has admitted to bribing former PUCO chair Sam Randazzo, who was appointed by DeWine and Republican ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, who pushed House Bill 6 through.

"We need to fire the utility commissioners that are really private utility commissioners appointed by Mike DeWine, and I will appoint public utility commissioners that’ll put the public first," Cranley said at a press conference across the street from the Statehouse.

Randazzo hasn’t been charged, and Householder is awaiting federal trial but has maintained his innocence.

Cranley also wants to revamp how PUCO commissioners are nominated and fully fund the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, the state’s utility watchdog agency.

But those changes would need approval from the legislature, which is still likely to be dominated by Republicans after next year’s election.

DeWine said in response to Cranley's comments about the Public Utilities Commissioners that he's "not going to fire them" and that "I guess the political season has started".

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.