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Baxley defeats Cavanaugh for Alabama PSC president

Democrat Lucy Baxley, whose long career seemed over when she lost the 2006 governor’s race and was crippled by a stroke, made a comeback with a narrow victory Wednesday in the race for president of the Public Service Commission.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting in the unofficial count, Baxley had 1,006,479 votes, or 50.3 percent, to Republican Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh’s 995,722, or 49.7 percent.

When all votes are tallied, the margin may end up close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

But plans were in place for Baxley to be sworn in by a judge Wednesday afternoon.

Cavanaugh, however, did not concede.

“We are waiting to see the rest of the votes come in, and then we’ll see what happens,” she said early Wednesday.

The winner replaces Republican Jim Sullivan. Baxley, joining Democrats Susan Parker and Jan Cook, makes the three-member utility board all-female. The PSC, which oversees Alabama Power Co. and Alabama Gas Corp. rates and other utility issues, will be all-Democratic for the first time since 1995.

Baxley, 70, was helped by name recognition built up over a political career that included eight years as state treasurer and four as Alabama’s first female lieutenant governor. She was the Democratic nominee for governor two years ago, but lost to Republican Gov. Bob Riley. Shortly after that loss, Baxley suffered a stroke in Birmingham that damaged her left side and caused her to campaign for the PSC presidency in a wheelchair.

She was confident enough of victory that she moved back to Montgomery, where state law requires commissioners to have a residence.

Cavanaugh, 42, making her first run for public office, was well-known at least in GOP circles, where in 2005 she became the first women elected chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. A former lobbyist, she also has served as Gov. Bob Riley’s senior adviser.