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 (see related story) the fallout — and spending — from the issue affected several statewide races.
Secretary of State
Political newcomer Steve Gaynor won the race for the No. 2 slot in the state — first in line if the governor quits, dies or is impeached.
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. Hobbs jumped on that to suggest Gaynor was seeking ways to suppress minority voting.
The subject of “dark money” also arose this year.
Gaynor argued there is a First Amendment right of these groups to refuse to disclose donors while Hobbs wants to overturn laws approved by the Republican Legislature that shield donors’ identity.
Incumbent Mark Brnovich won what should have been a race about who would be the best lawyer for the state, but 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 added 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.
Proposition 127 organizers said that wording was designed provoke opposition at the bidding of 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 APS commercials.
That led to more than $4.2 million in commercials financed by Proposition 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 attacking Contreras.
Arizona Corporation Commission
The spat over Proposition 127 spilled over into the closely contested 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.
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 relied 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.
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 they would be. And Olson took pains to point out he wasn’t on the commission when the rate hike was approved.
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.