Brad Molnar believes that instead of taking potshots at him, Montana Democrats should be apologizing to the public for their poor record on utility regulation and promising to try to do better in the future.
Molnar is now the lone Republican on the five-member Montana Public Service Commission, but he hopes to be in the majority after the Nov. 2 election.
He took strong exception to comments made by PSC Chairman Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, at the Hill County Democratic Harvest Dinner last week.
Jergeson said Molnar worked very hard, but has some "dreadfully bad ideas," including a 2001 proposal for a $90 million bailout of utilities.
Molnar said his proposal would have ensured that Montanans would not face massive rate increases. It would have been revenue neutral, he said, because he proposed a massive tax increase on utilities that would have expired the day before a five-year rate freeze ended, thus prohibiting rate increases to pay for the taxes.
Molnar was a special adviser to the House Speaker on the energy crisis and devised a plan that included what Jergeson called a bailout of utilities.
The proposal was defeated by state Senate Republicans, he said, countering Jergeson's suggestion that then-state Sen. Don Ryan, D-Great Falls, led the effort to defeat the plan.
"I have read the transcripts, and Don Ryan didn't say one word," Molnar said.
Ryan is running for the PSC from District 1, which includes the Hi-Line, against Republican Travis Kavullla, who Molnar strongly supports.
Molnar objected to Jergeson and Ryan's support for what he called poorly crafted legislation that requires utility companies to use renewable energy for 15 percent of their power generation.
He called the legislation "anti-consumer," because it has resulted in requests for higher rates.
"Why is it that they are not apologizing for voting for this?" Molnar asked.
Instead, he said, they support increasing the renewable energy requirement to 25 percent.
Jergeson and Ryan backed the proposal to please renewable energy companies who have supported their candidacies, he said.
Molnar called Kavulla "brilliant," and predicted he would win the seat to succeed Jergeson, who is ineligible to run because of term limits.
He said the state Democratic Party is not putting any money into the Ryan-Kavulla contest.
Republicans would also gain the seat in northwestern Montana, giving the GOP control of the commission.
While he said there is a strong argument to be made for nonpartisan election of PSC members, he said Democrats are responsible for the partisan atmosphere on the commission.
Molnar also disagreed with Jergeson on the race for the state House between incumbent Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, and her Democratic rival, Dana Sapp Seidel.
"I know Greg's wife is active in Seidel's campaign, and Greg has written letters to the editor for her," Molnar said.
But he said Warburton is one of the few lawmakers who has approached him and asked what she can do to lower utility rates.