HELENA -- Public Service Commissioner Bill Gallagher, who underwent surgery last summer for pancreatic cancer, said Wednesday he won’t run for re-election this year because of his ongoing battle with the disease.
The Helena Republican from District 5, which stretches from Helena to Kalispell, said he still plans to serve out his term, which expires a year from now.
“There is a battle waging for the direction of our state and country, and, while I have been privileged to participate and even lead in that battle, I must face the harsh reality that my fight with cancer could limit my effectiveness in a second term,” he said in a statement.
The five-member PSC regulates electric, gas, telephone and water utilities in the state.
Gallagher, 54, an attorney, won election to the regulatory commission in 2010, easily defeating incumbent Democratic Commissioner Ken Toole of Helena.
An outspoken conservative, Gallagher also ran for lieutenant governor in 2012 with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller. They finished third in a seven-way Republican primary.
Gallagher became chairman of the PSC in January last year, after Republicans swept three PSC elections in 2012 and won a 5-0 majority on the commission.
Gallagher revealed in June he had been diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer and later underwent surgery in Seattle. He returned to work at the commission late last summer and fall, but said Wednesday he didn’t want to take on a re-election campaign.
Not having a campaign will allow him to focus on his work at the PSC, his family and “beating this abominable disease,” he said.
“I love the job of public service and I am very good at working and fighting for the people of Montana,” he said. “I am so very thankful to the people of Montana for the honor and opportunity to serve them, and am hopeful that with God’s help I may do so again one day soon.”
Gallagher’s District 5 includes Lewis and Clark, Flathead, Lake, Glacier, Pondera and Teton counties.
Gallagher’s announcement Wednesday makes the district an open seat this year; candidate filing begins next Thursday.
The only other public service commissioner up for re-election this year is Republican Travis Kavulla of Great Falls, whose District 1 covers 19 counties in north and northeastern Montana.