Repub­li­cans hold leads as Ari­zona Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion race tight­ens

The Arizona Republic - - Valley&state - Ryan Ran­dazzo The Ari­zona Repub­lic

Repub­li­cans Justin Ol­son and Rod­ney Glass­man con­tin­ued to lead the race for two seats on the Ari­zona Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion on Thurs­day fol­low­ing new vote to­tals re­ported by the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice.

But Demo­crat San­dra Kennedy moved closer to Glass­man in the race.

Glass­man and Ol­son have led the race over Democrats Kennedy and Kiana Sears in pre­lim­i­nary re­sults since Elec­tion Day and were the As­so­ci­ated Press’ pro­jected win­ners Tues­day night.

Ol­son has a com­fort­able lead and has thanked vot­ers for keep­ing him in of­fice. But with a nar­row mar­gin be­tween Glass­man and Kennedy for the sec­ond seat, Kennedy has not yet con­ceded.

The gap be­tween Glass­man and Kennedy nar­rowed fol­low­ing a 5 p.m. up­date Thurs­day. Glass­man led Kennedy by about 14,000 votes af­ter the up­date. Be­fore the up­date, his lead was about 28,000 votes.

es­ti­mates 460,000 bal­lots were still to be counted as of 5 p.m. Thurs­day. About 350,000 of those are in Mari­copa County.

“The sup­port and trust that the vot­ers have placed in me by elect­ing me to serve an­other term on the Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion is very hon­or­ing and very hum­bling,” Ol­son wrote on Face­book. “I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing my ef­forts to re­build the pub­lic con­fi­dence in the Com­mis­sion.”

The five elected com­mis­sion­ers set rates and poli­cies for elec­tric, wa­ter and gas util­i­ties, and per­form other du­ties in­clud­ing over­see­ing rail­road cross­ings and pipe­line safety.

Glass­man thanked the Repub­li­can Party for wel­com­ing him at an elec­tion night party Tues­day.

“Tonight, Ari­zona sent a mes­sage to Tom Steyer that the Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion is not for sale,” Glass­man said, re­fer­ring to a re­new­able-en­ergy bal­lot mea­sure sup­ported by Steyer, a bil­lion­aire ac­tivist.

The cam­paign for seats on the com­mis­sion fo­cused mostly on ethics and how the can­di­dates would work to re­store pub­lic trust in the reg­u­la­tors.

In re­cent years, the com­mis­sion has faced a va­ri­ety of is­sues, from a fed­eral bribery case that ended in a mis­trial to ques­tions about the in­flu­ence Ari­zona Pub­lic Ser­vice Co. has on the politi­cians who set the rates its 1.1 mil­lion cus­tomers pay.

Two years ago, APS par­ent com­pany Pin­na­cle West Cap­i­tal Corp. be­gan a new pol­icy un­der which the com­pany would ad­vo­cate for can­di­dates for the com­mis­sion and re­port its spend­ing. The com­pany is sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the elec­tion be­fore that — some­thing it doesn’t deny.

Pin­na­cle West set up a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee this year to par­tic­i­pate in the races but does not ap­pear to have ad­ver­tised for or against can­di­dates.

Eric Hy­ers, cam­paign man­ager for Propo­si­tion 127, which would have re­quired util­i­ties to use more re­new­able en­ergy, took credit for APS stay­ing out of the Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion races. Vot­ers gave the bal­lot mea­sure a crush­ing de­feat.

Part­way through the cam­paign, the bal­lot mea­sure’s back­ers broad­ened their ef­forts to tar­get can­di­dates seen as sym­pa­thetic to APS.

“In the past, they (APS) have felt em­bold­ened to do that (sup­port ACC can­di­dates),” Hy­ers said.

He said APS not sup­port­ting can­di­dates for the of­fice this year shows “the play­ing field has been tilted away from them in a way that has never hap­pened.”

He con­tin­ued: “That’s how you go af­ter a bully . ... You make sure the bully’s friends and sub­or­di­nates don’t feel they have to do what the bully wants.”

Ol­son, the only in­cum­bent in the race, is a tax an­a­lyst and for­mer law­maker whom Gov. Doug Ducey ap­pointed in Oc­to­ber 2017 to fill a com­mis­sion va­cancy. Glass­man is an at­tor­ney and served as a Demo­crat on the Tuc­son City Coun­cil.

On the Demo­cratic side, Kennedy is a for­mer state law­maker who served one term on the com­mis­sion. Sears is a school board mem­ber and for­mer staffer at the com­mis­sion run­ning for her first ma­jor of­fice.

The main dif­fer­ence be­tween the can­di­dates was their views on re­new­able en­ergy and whether they would re­quire util­i­ties to use more en­ergy sources such as so­lar and wind. The Democrats fa­vored such an in­crease; the Repub­li­cans op­posed it.

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