Sunday, December 7, 2014

Despite a loss, Forest Bradley Wright looks forward to marching on

Posted By on Sun, Dec 7, 2014 at 1:01 AM

click to enlarge Forest Bradley Wright (center) with Karen Wimpleberg and Tom Lowenburg, two founders of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Forest Bradley Wright (center) with Karen Wimpleberg and Tom Lowenburg, two founders of the Alliance for Affordable Energy.

Among the many wins Forest Bradley Wright listed in his concession speech Saturday night at the Blake Hotel was making people aware of the fact that the position he ran for even existed.

"(Public Service Commissioner) has a purpose that we have been shut out from," Wright said, minutes after learning that he had lost the election to incumbent Eric Skrmetta. "(It is) a race that people have never heard about, for elected officials that they never hear from, making decisions that effect every one of our lives."

Skrmetta finished the race with 120,032 votes, while Wright fell behind by almost 4,000 votes with a total of 116,042. Both candidates are Republicans, though Wright has run a campaign rife with accusations that he's a wolf in sheep's clothing, posing as a Republican though he's really a Barack Obama-aligned Democrat. 

Wright, a former director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, joked about his very real passion for regulating utilities, which is the primary role of Louisiana's Public Service Commissioner. "This stuff is arcane," he said in his speech. "It's completely unfamiliar. If you mention utility regulation, people will sort of nod at you with a far away look in their eyes like, 'I don't know have any idea what that is, but I'm glad that you like to do it.' And I do."

Wright told Gambit that he was excited to see the energy that emerged from a long, arduous campaign, and looking around the room, he didn't seem to be exaggerating. Even after learning he'd lost, Wright had the same ear-to-ear smile that he did at the beginning of the night, and his supporters, mostly folks from various energy efficiency companies and non-profits, seemed hopeful despite the loss. Karen Wimpleberg, a former president of the Alliance for Affordable Energy who Wright cites as his mentor, said that there was "no question," Wright would recover from the setback. "He's going someplace," she said. "He's a very calm and centered human being."

"I was excited by what we were creating during the course of the campaign, in mobilizing people, bringing attention to issues relating to the Public Service Commission that the public really deserves to know about," Wright said.  "...So that's something that gives me great hope for the work ahead, because, undeniably, we have more work to do."

Wright told Gambit that in the 10 years he's been working in energy, he's had to take setback with victory. "In many ways, energy efficiency in the state of Louisiana is a very good example of that," he said. "It took a great deal effort. Very shortly after it got knocked out, we had to pull it back, and now we do have these energy efficiency programs and they're doing good things for the public."

But the main message was awareness. "I can believe that in the past, probably not that many people watched the election results for public service commission with real interest and strong feelings, because it's just been so far off the radar, historically," said Wright. "But I do believe that tonight, that people were watching and did care. Certainly people who were with us are sad tonight, but feel that sense of opportunity and will keep working with us. The work continues."

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