Brad Ploeger’s path to elected office comes with a couple of hurdles and a few explanations. He’s gay. He’s Libertarian. And he wants a seat on the Public Service Commission.
The Grant Park resident is no stranger to politics. He ran for the state House in 2010 against a gay-friendly incumbent and lost. And he’s confronted entrenched politicians when they stray into anti-gay territory. But as he works to raise $35,000 to fund his campaign, he’s also got to interest voters in the PSC and the down ballot race, and explain what it means to be a Libertarian.
LGBT voters, though, will get the gay thing. And once they learn a little about what it means to be a Libertarian, they’ll probably like that, too. The PSC? The five-member commission impacts your daily life more than you know.
So we talked with the 30-year-old small business owner about his politics, being a Libertarian and his campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton for the District 3 post on the PSC. And since this might help solidify the gay vote, he and his partner own two dogs, both rescues.
You’ve got a track record of political involvement and LGBT activism. What prompted you, a young gay Libertarian, to run for office? And why the PSC?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I am running for office to make a difference in Georgia. All my life I have stood up to and spoke out against what I believe is wrong. This is why I confronted Rep. Franklin and Sen. Chambliss. But to focus on your question, the PSC in this state is easily the most corrupt entity in our state government. On paper, the PSC exists to protect consumers from the negative effects of utility monopolies; in reality, the PSC is bought and paid for by those monopolies.
For example, my Republican incumbent opponent received nearly 85 percent of his campaign contributions from utility executives or their agents. The incumbent in another PSC district received more than 90 percent of his contributions from utility executives or their agents. While their behavior is completely legal, it is still totally unethical. Georgians need to understand that those who they elect to guard them are completely in the pocket of big business. If nothing else I want to shed light on the ethical issues at the PSC so we can demand change.
I am very fortunate to serve on the board of a senior community that strives to provide affordable housing. As part of that opportunity I regularly meet individuals that have trouble making ends meet and simply cannot afford a rate increase or any additional expenses. Someone needs to stand up for Georgians that are struggling to pay their bills — one way I can do so is to run for the PSC.
Explain the PSC in the same brief elevator pitch or sound bite you’d offer to your apolitical friends at the bar when they go, whoa, WTF is the PSC?
The Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating utilities in Georgia. Few Georgians realize that before your power, telephone or natural gas provider can raise rates they must first obtain approval from the five members of the PSC. I want to make sure the best interests of Georgia’s consumers are protected by the commission not corporate monopolies.
Did you ask your partner about this before you launched the campaign? Is he political? What’s his reaction to you being in another race?
Joey is my best friend and partner of eight years. I am fortunate to have his full support for my campaign. There is no way I could to do this without him. He is also deeply involved in the Libertarian Parties of Atlanta and Georgia. He serves as treasurer of the Atlanta affiliate and also serves on the State Executive Committee as well. He has been the By-Laws, Rules and Credentials Committee for the State Party for the past two years. You could say we are the LGBT Power Couple of the State Party.
You’ve got GOP and Democratic opponents. Do you think sexual orientation will come up in the race? What about the fact that you’re a Libertarian, too?
Obviously I am a gay male. That fact may come up in the race but I doubt it. Frankly, if my opponents decide to make it an issue, it means they cannot campaign and win on the issues. Honestly, being a Libertarian in Georgia is difficult. Georgians rarely have the chance to see us in campaigns other than statewide elections. This is due to Georgia having one of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation this makes it prohibitively difficult to run in partisan district elections. I’ve found most people learn what being Libertarian actually means they discover that we share many of the same beliefs such as a commitment to limited government while protecting personal freedom.
What’s your plan for the campaign? Specific issues in your plank? How much will it cost to fund your effort?
Right now my campaign plans to target independent voters in the 10-county metro area. If our contributions increase we will expand our efforts. My campaign budget is based on the expectation of raising 35 thousand dollars. This is equal to an average state House campaign in Georgia. Libertarians are used to running efficient campaigns and mine will be no different. We expect most of our support to come from the grassroots. The support my campaign has so far has exceed my expectations and I have high hopes as we move closer to the [Nov. 6] election.
As I said earlier the central plank of my campaign is ethics. Georgians have a right and the need to know the depth of the corruption on the PSC. They deserve to be represented by their elected officials and not sold out to the highest bidder. I will be a truly independent voice on the commission.
Why should LGBT folks tune in, care and pay attention to this campaign? And should gay Democrats be wary of a gay Libertarian in the same way they view gay Republicans with some skepticism?
Nearly every Georgian, regardless of their orientation, pays utility bills. The matters brought before the PSC affect all of us. In addition, my campaign is an opportunity for all Georgians to see that LGBT individuals share the same concerns and want to make Georgia a better place to live.
As for the Libertarian Party, we are incredibly supportive of all individuals. The LP has embraced full marriage equality in its national platform since 1996. The party is a place where everyone is welcome regardless of their orientation or gender identity. I encourage LGBT individuals to visit our state party website or stop by our booth at Pride to learn more information. We do not simply tolerant alternative lifestyles — we embrace them. Give us a look; you might discover you like what you find.
What can LGBT folks do to support you and your campaign?
I encourage anyone that would like support my campaign to visit my website or to give me a call at 404-939-0367. Any support is greatly appreciated. The campaign is looking for people willing to put up a yard sign, signing my list of endorsers, hosting a neighborhood gathering or even making a monetary contribution. My campaign thrives on the support of committed individuals. I am truly humbled by the amount of support I have received thus far.