By MALLORY MOENCH, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Public Service Commission president Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh has outpaced her Republican opponents in fundraising for the lieutenant governor’s June primary, receiving thousands from coal mining companies.
Cavanaugh raised nearly $150,000 in April to reach $1.1 million in total contributions. She came into the campaign with more than $500,000 from past runs.
Her closest contender, state Rep. Will Ainsworth, has received just shy of $950,000 total. He also loaned himself $500,000.
State Sen. Rusty Glover raised around $142,000.
The only candidate on the Democratic side, minister Will Boyd, received just over $12,000.
While Glover and Boyd logged contributions almost entirely from individuals, Ainsworth and Cavanaugh raked in support from political action committees and corporations.
Since August 2017 when Cavanaugh announced her run for lieutenant governor, she has received around $67,000 from coal mining companies — an industry connected to the utility-regulating commission where she now works.
Environmental groups have criticized Cavanaugh for receiving donations from the same companies in her past two races for Public Service Commission president. She has railed against environmental groups that she has accused of trying to kill coal jobs and increase utility rates.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Cavanaugh spoke with pride of her support for coal to retain jobs and keep power prices low.
“I support coal wholeheartedly and whatever type of fuel to utilize the cheapest price,” Cavanaugh said. “I am open to all forms of energy but I want to make sure it’s in the best interests of the consumers.”
One of the “environmental extremist” groups Cavanaugh previously criticized is the Southern Environmental Law Center. The legal advocacy group sued the Alabama Public Service Commission last Friday for charging citizens who install solar energy panels a $5 per kilowatt monthly fee.
The group has expressed concern about Cavanaugh’s ties to coal companies and how they could affect Alabama’s renewable energy and environmental future.
“We think there’s a large market out there that Alabama is missing out on because they’re not participating in the renewable energy space in some areas. We think it’s a viable solution going forward,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney in the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Birmingham office. “The environmental impacts are obviously less than mining and burning coal.”
As campaigning accelerates toward the June 5 primary, Cavanaugh has visited coal mines. Cavanaugh said she recently met a miner named Bubba who handed her five $20 dollar bills with tears in his eyes and thanked her for fighting for him.
“I’m running for Bubba,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m running for all the Bubbas across the state.”