Davante Lewis Upsets 3-Term Incumbent in Public Service Commission Race

Published 6:28 am Monday, December 12, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Campaigning on holding monopoly utility companies accountable, reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and a Ratepayers’ Bill of Rights, on Saturday Davante Lewis defeated a three-term incumbent to win election for District 3’s Public Service Commissioner, becoming the first openly gay statewide elected official in Louisiana. Speaking to a crowd of supporters at the Holy Ground Irish Pub, he thanked them for their support, for the movement for clean, affordable, and reliable utilities they had all built together, and for delivering a victory for Louisiana’s energy future:

Tonight, we have begun a new chapter for Louisiana. Tonight, the people of Louisiana start taking our power back. Tonight, Louisiana has a Public Service Commissioner who’s unafraid to hold Entergy accountable, because I owe this victory to the people of Louisiana and their commitment to a brighter, cleaner,  and 100% renewable future.

Thank you to all of the people who gave their time, money, and votes. It is because of you that our movement for clean, affordable, and reliable utilities won out against the political and financial interests who invested so heavily in maintaining an unaffordable, unreliable, and unbearable status quo. We rose up and said Louisiana is ready for a new energy future. One in which every Louisianian can count on clean air and water, a warm house in the winter, a cool horse in the summer and utility bills that don’t break the bank.

Realizing this vision will take hard work from our entire movement. The monopoly utility companies, oil, gas and petrochemical industries and political establishment who tried to sink our movement will not disappear because of this election. We must continue to root out corruption and unrig the system, to hold me and my fellow commissioners accountable, and to advocate for bold, new solutions. But tonight shows that together, we are up to the challenge and I look forward to spending the next six years fighting every day for you.

Louisiana’s five Public Service Commissioners each serve six-year terms regulating the state’s utilities, pipelines, telecommunications, and more as well as helping to determine the state’s energy policies. The Commission has the power to approve or deny rate increases by utility companies and influence whether utilities are powered by gas or renewables such as solar and wind.

While past elections for the position have drawn little attention, recent tragedies caused by climate change, such as Hurricane Ida, have increased scrutiny on the Public Service Commission and Louisiana’s utility companies, particularly Entergy, and their role in contributing to climate change and leaving Louisiana’s energy infrastructure vulnerable to worsening hurricanes.

Davante Lewis decided to run for Public Service Commissioner soon after Hurricane Ida when he saw the Commissioner, Lambert Boissiere, doing little to help his constituents better prepare Louisiana’s infrastructure for future storms or hold Entergy accountable. In addition to a slow recovery from Ida, Louisianans’ utility bills soared this summer while the monopoly utility companies made immense profits. According to a voting guide by the New Orleans chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, Boissiere has never voted against any of Entergy’s requests for additional fees or rate increases.

Lewis was raised by a single mother in Lake Charles, Louisiana and knew what it was like to struggle to keep the lights on. He also lived through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as a young adult, when his opponent, Lambert Boissiere, was just starting on the Public Service Commission. Through these storms, and the many more that followed, Lewis experienced firsthand how an ill-prepared energy infrastructure can displace and devastate a family.

At 30 years old, Davante Lewis is the Director of Public Affairs with the Louisiana Budget Project. There, he gained experience crafting policy to protect Louisiana’s families and working with lawmakers to pass that policy in the legislature. Lewis used that experience to develop a policy platform that reflected the concerns of Louisiana’s next generation of leaders and focused on rebuilding Louisiana’s energy future. The platform includes passing a Ratepayers’ Bill of Rights, which would end service disconnections, provide a fixed billing system, ban excessive late fees and strengthen utility companies’ profit cap, cleaning up the grid by making Louisiana’s electricity 100% renewable by 2035, tackling corruption by banning commissioners from receiving donations from the entities they regulate, and investing in green jobs. This progressive policy platform earned him the support of environmental groups, and pitted him against utility companies.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Lewis’ opponent, three-term incumbent Lambert Boissiere, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, mostly from Entergy and other entities and individuals the Public Service Commission is supposed to regulate. Since the beginning of his campaign, Lewis has pledged not to accept donations from any entities the Public Service Commission regulates.

However, this late influx of cash and political support ultimately lost against Lewis’ coalition of grassroots supporters and community organizations dedicated to environmental and criminal justice. These groups, including Voters Organized to Educate, Sunrise Movement New Orleans, The Sierra Club, and Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, supported Lewis because of his promise to make Louisiana’s electricity 100% renewable by 2035 and to lower costs of phone calls to and from prisons, which the Public Service Commission has the power to determine.

Lewis spent the last few weeks of his campaign lining up endorsements from his former challengers, Reverend Gregory Manning and Willie Jones, environmental justice advocate, Sharon Lavigne, and a slate of community endorsers, and utilizing all of his campaign’s resources to contact voters and get them out to vote. His policies brought together a broad coalition of supporters from New Orleans to Baton Rouge that included the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee, Voters Organized to Educate, Sunrise Movement New Orleans, Forum for Equality PAC and more.

On November 8th, Davante Lewis forced an unprecedented runoff for the Public Service Commissioner’s race. This was the first competitive election Boissiere has faced since he was first elected in 2004.

###

About Davante Lewis

Davante Lewis is a lifelong Louisiana resident who’s dedicated his life to bringing real solutions to Louisiana’s working families. He is running for Public Service Commissioner in District 3 on a platform of protecting ratepayers’ rights, cleaning up the grid, tackling corruption, and investing in green jobs. Davante currently works with the Louisiana Budget Project to pass progressive legislation to raise the minimum wage, and protect Louisiana’s families. You can learn more about him at davanteforla.com.