CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State Treasurer and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Perdue is stepping up his campaign this week.
On Wednesday, he was joined by about a dozen supporters outside the state Public Service Commission to begin a petition drive designed to convince the commission to freeze until 2012 the current rates for gas, water and electric customers.
Today, Perdue is expected to launch a 2-minute television commercial that will air statewide. It's not clear what the commercial will focus on.
"Two minutes, you can do a lot of things," said Perdue campaign spokesman George Manahan.
During the appearance in front of the PSC at 11 a.m., Perdue carried a populist message, attacking high CEO salaries and more than a billion dollars a year in profits for the parent company of Appalachian Power, which serves the southern half of West Virginia.
The commission has several rate hikes pending, including two from Appalachian Power totaling 15.9 percent, as well as a 15.1 percent increase requested by West Virginia American Water.
"I say, enough is enough," Perdue said. "Our citizens can't take it anymore."
Perdue has focused a lot of attention on utility rates, a bread-and-butter issue for voters, especially seniors on a fixed income.
Mark Dempsey, a senior spokesman for AEP, sent Perdue a letter defending the power company.
Dempsey argues AEP's rates for West Virginia customers remain 2 cents below the national average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. He also said the company is being hit by the higher price of coal, environmental regulations and infrastructure investments.
Dempsey also defended CEO Michael Morris' $9 million a year salary by saying the company seeks to make sure everyone, including its rank and file, is "fairly compensated."