State of­fices see changes

Prop. 127 is­sue di­vided com­mis­sion can­di­dates


PHOENIX — Ari­zo­nans did more than choose who they want for gov­er­nor on Tues­day. They also made their se­lec­tions for a va­ri­ety of other of­fices as Democrats sought to break the stran­gle­hold that Repub­li­cans have now had for years on statewide of­fices.

And while the pro­po­nents of Propo­si­tion 127 could not get vot­ers to ap­prove it, the fall­out — and spend­ing — from the is­sue af­fected sev­eral statewide races.

Sec­re­tary of State

Po­lit­i­cal new­comer Steve Gaynor got the bid to be the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee af­ter he knocked off in­cum­bent Michele Rea­gan in the pri­mary, cap­i­tal­iz­ing on a series of mis­steps she made in run­ning prior elec­tions. But Rea­gan’s shadow was there in the gen­eral elec­tion against Demo­cratic law­maker Katie Hobbs as both promised to do a bet­ter job than their pre­de­ces­sor.

But they had dif­fer­ing views on how hard — or easy — it should be to vote.

Gaynor caused a bit of a stir with his com­ments early on that bal­lots should be printed only in English.

He con­ceded that would re­quire over­turn­ing a key pro­vi­sion of the fed­eral Vot­ing Rights Act which re­quires coun­ties and cities to pro­vide elec­tion ma­te­ri­als in other lan­guages when there are sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of vot­ers for whom English is not their first lan­guage. Hobbs jumped on that to sug­gest Gaynor was seek­ing ways to sup­press mi­nor­ity vot­ing.

They also dif­fered on the wis­dom of the state’s 2016 law which makes it a felony to take some­one else’s early bal­lot to polling places.

That law has ex­cep­tions for fam­ily mem­bers and care­givers. But Hobbs said that, too, makes it more dif­fi­cult for some peo­ple to cast their bal­lots.

Gaynor sided with the Repub­li­cans who ap­proved the law amid claims that al­low­ing out­siders to han­dle bal­lots cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for fraud.

The sub­ject of “dark money” also arose this year as it did four years ago when Rea­gan, seek­ing elec­tion, vowed to seek greater dis­clo­sure of who is con­tribut­ing to non­profit “so­cial wel­fare” or­ga­ni­za­tions that run com­mer­cials for or against can­di­dates and is­sues.

Rea­gan aban­doned that po­si­tion af­ter her elec­tion. But the is­sue re­mained with Gaynor ar­gu­ing there is a First Amend­ment right of these groups to refuse to dis­close donors while Hobbs wants to over­turn laws ap­proved by the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture that shield donors’ iden­tity.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral

In­cum­bent Mark Brnovich won what should have been a race about who would be the best lawyer for the state which ul­ti­mately de­volved into a mud­fest of charges of cor­rup­tion.

It started with Brnovich ex­er­cis­ing his right to make changes in how var­i­ous mea­sures are de­scribed to vot­ers on the bal­lot.

In the case of Propo­si­tion 127, Brnovich rat­i­fied and de­fended de­ci­sions by sub­or­di­nates to add lan­guage that ap­proval of the bal­lot mea­sure to man­date half of en­ergy be gen­er­ated from re­new­able sources by 2030 would oc­cur “ir­re­spec­tive of cost” to con­sumers.

Prop 127 or­ga­niz­ers said that word­ing was de­signed to con­vince peo­ple to op­pose the mea­sure.

More to the point, they charged it was done to ben­e­fit Ari­zona Pub­lic Ser­vice, the state’s largest elec­tric util­ity, which has been the key foe of the ini­tia­tive. And it didn’t help that the “ir­re­spec­tive of cost” ver­biage showed up within days on com­mer­cials fi­nanced by APS.

That led to more than $4.2 mil­lion of com­mer­cials fi­nanced by Prop 127 or­ga­niz­ers. While some praised Demo­crat Jan­uary Con­tr­eras, oth­ers said Brnovich was “cor­rupt” and had es­sen­tially been bought off by APS which had given $450,000 to the Repub­li­can At­tor­neys Gen­eral As­so­ci­a­tion which sup­ported his 2014 cam­paign and has been buy­ing its own com­mer­cials this year at­tack­ing Demo­crat Jan­uary Con­tr­eras.

Those RAGA-funded com­mer­cials, in turn, ac­cuse Con­tr­eras of be­ing in the pocket of Cal­i­for­nia bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer who is the prime fi­nancier be­hind Propo­si­tion 127.

It wasn’t just RAGA pil­ing on with its $1.2 mil­lion to help Brnovich this year, with the state Repub­li­can Party fi­nanc­ing its own com­mer­cials charg­ing that Con­tr­eras, while health pol­icy ad­viser to then-Gov. Janet Napoli­tano, ig­nored prob­lems of pa­tient ne­glect at the state vet­er­ans’ home.

Ari­zona Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion

The spat over Propo­si­tion 127 spilled over into the race for who should serve on the panel that reg­u­lates util­ity rates in the state.

Repub­li­can Justin Ol­son, ap­pointed last year to the panel, was seek­ing a full four-year term of his own. He was run­ning as a team with at­tor­ney Rod­ney Glass­man af­ter Glass­man de­feated in­cum­bent Tom Forese.

Both were op­posed to the ini­tia­tive to man­date half of elec­tric­ity be gen­er­ated from re­new­able sources by 2030, say­ing the stan­dards should be left to the com­mis­sion.

On the Demo­cratic side were Kiana Sears and San­dra Kennedy, the lat­ter hav­ing been on the com­mis­sion years ago. Both sup­ported the bal­lot mea­sure, point­ing out that reg­u­la­tors have had years to up­date the cur­rent re­new­able en­ergy man­date — 15 per­cent by 2025 — but have not done so.

That sup­port for the new stan­dard pro­vided im­por­tant fi­nan­cial help to the Democrats, both of whom had de­cided not to take out­side do­na­tions but in­stead each rely on $271,000 in pub­lic fi­nanc­ing. That de­ci­sion, though, did not bar Chispa Ari­zona, an arm of the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, from spend­ing $3.7 mil­lion on its own to help se­cure the elec­tion.

The is­sues in this race went be­yond the re­new­able en­ergy man­date.

A com­mis­sion-ap­proved rate hike for Ari­zona Pub­lic Ser­vice is now back be­fore the panel amid ques­tions from cus­tomers that their new bills are much higher than the util­ity claimed their would be. And Ol­son took pains to point out he wasn’t on the com­mis­sion when the rate hike was ap­proved.

Su­per­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic In­struc­tion

In­cum­bent Diane Dou­glas found her­self out of the run­ning af­ter Frank Riggs, a for­mer Cal­i­for­nia con­gress­man, won the Repub­li­can pri­mary. That set the stage for him to face off against Demo­crat Kathy Hoff­man, a speech ther­a­pist in the Peo­ria school sys­tem who won her party’s pri­mary.

In many ways, they agreed on some com­mon points.

Both sought greater over­sight of char­ter schools which are pri­vate op­er­a­tions that tech­ni­cally are pub­lic schools. Riggs in par­tic­u­lar said Ari­zona should no longer al­low these to be for-profit op­er­a­tions.

They also op­posed Propo­si­tion 305, the mea­sure to rat­ify the leg­isla­tive de­ci­sion to ex­pand who is el­i­gi­ble for vouch­ers of pub­lic funds for pri­vate and parochial schools. But Riggs said he could sup­port an ex­panded pro­gram if pri­or­ity was given to low-in­come fam­i­lies; Hoff­man said there would be less de­mand for vouch­ers if the state prop­erly funded its pub­lic school sys­tem but said she would not elim­i­nate the ex­ist­ing vouch­ers avail­able to cer­tain stu­dents.

Riggs, how­ever, said he op­posed a plan — no longer on the bal­lot — to raise in­come taxes on the state’s most wealthy to fund ed­u­ca­tion. Hoff­man said the state’s schools needed the $690 mil­lion that would have raised.

Hoff­man also sup­ported the Red for Ed move­ment and the strike ear­lier this year by teach­ers, say­ing that was nec­es­sary to get pub­lic at­ten­tion for the fact that state aid for ed­u­ca­tion has not kept pace with in­fla­tion. Riggs said while the move­ment had ad­mirable goals it quickly be­came coopted as a way of sup­port­ing Democrats.


Repub­li­can State Sen. Yee ap­par­ently won the race for trea­surer against Demo­crat Mark Manoil.

Yee cam­paigned on her ex­pe­ri­ence in state gov­ern­ment while Manoil, whose only other pre­vi­ous po­lit­i­cal out­ing was a los­ing bid for Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion, touted his back­ground as “a small busi­ness owner fo­cused on en­forc­ing prop­erty laws.”

But Yee turned that around on him, point­ing out that his busi­ness in­volves buy­ing up prop­er­ties whose own­ers have not paid their taxes. That, she ar­gued, meant he was re­spon­si­ble for evict­ing fam­i­lies who had fallen on hard time.

Manoil coun­tered that the vast ma­jor­ity of his busi­ness in­volves scoop­ing up prop­er­ties that had been bought by spec­u­la­tors and were often aban­doned.

Yee also cap­i­tal­ized on Manoil’s own fi­nan­cial is­sues, like loss of a home to fore­clo­sure and re­pos­ses­sion of a ve­hi­cle, say­ing he should not be put in charge of an agency that man­ages $15 bil­lion in funds.

Manoil said he learned from his mis­takes.

He also pro­moted hav­ing the state part­ner with ru­ral banks to make more credit avail­able in small com­mu­ni­ties, a con­cept Yee dis­missed as “so­cial­ized bank­ing.”

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