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Public Service Commissioner Tony O’Donnell planned to launch his re-election bid Friday.

O’Donnell told The Gazette he brought the ability to think critically and independently to the PSC, which regulates monopoly utilities and other investor-owned providers of public services, such as garbage trucks and private water and sewer companies.

“My background has prepared me for this because people have identified what I have as critical thinking and an independent search for the truth and accuracy,” O’Donnell said, adding that it was former Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar who observed that O’Donnell asks questions others might not.

O’Donnell was elected in 2016 when he unseated Kirk Bushman in the PSC District 2 Republican primary. That June victory settled the race, as Democrats didn’t have a candidate for the post. Republicans have dominated the office, which represents southeast Montana from Glendive to Red Lodge and includes Billings.

There is a Republican challenger for the office. State Representative Daniel Zolnikov announced his candidacy for PSC this fall.

Three of Montana’s five PSC seats are on the ballot in 2020. Republican Commissioners Roger Koopman and Bob Lake are termed out.

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Koopman represents District 3, which stretches from Anaconda to Park City, just 20 miles west of Billings. Democratic State Representative Tom Woods of Bozeman is a candidate, as are Republicans Walter Derzay of Bozeman and James Brown, of Dillon.

Lake represents District 4, which stretches from Hamilton to Libby along Montana’s northwest border. Four candidates have filed for the office, including former State Chamber of Commerce Director and Republican Webb Brown and former Montana Republican Party Chairman Will Deschamps, both of whom list Missoula as their home. There are three Democratic candidates: former PSC staff member and attorney Monica Tranel, Brett Rosenberg and Daniel Carlino.

The PSC annual salary is $107,000.

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