Preston T. Shannon, one of three members of the powerful State Corporation Commission, today easily overcame opposition from consumer groups to win the endorsement of Democratic legislators to another six-year term.

The endorsement effectively guarantees Shannon's formal reappointment to the commission, which sets utility rates, on the floor of both houses of the General Assembly, because Democratic members are bound to vote for whomever their caucuses support. The formal vote is expected to take place as early as tomorrow.

A coalition of consumer advocates pushing the candidacy of former legislator Erwin (Shad) Solomon was badly defeated in a secret caucus of the Senate's 31 Democrats this afternoon. Solomon's name was withdrawn from consideration in the House Democratic caucus, which met separately and endorsed Shannon.

"It was overwhelming," said Sen. Clive DuVal II (D-Fairfax), chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus. "I was surprised." DuVal would not disclose the actual vote but said it was nearly 2 to 1.

Shannon, 56, a former lawyer for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, had been criticized by consumer groups for siding with utilities in critical rate cases before the commission.

Maureen Kennedy, a consumer activist from Charlottesville, said last week that Shannon's experience in energy matters tended to sway the other two commissioners, leaving rate payers without a representative on the board.

Supporters of Solomon acknowledged last week that their battle was uphill, because Shannon clearly had the support of the state's business establishment. Solomon chose not to seek reelection as a delegate from Bath County last year after he lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.