In the last week, four of five Arizona Corporation Commission candidates whose nomination petitions were challenged lost their cases. I was the plaintiff in three cases – one of which prevailed in the Arizona Supreme Court.
Those who lost will place the blame on partisan conspiracies, out-of-state operatives, overreaching jurisprudence or any other sound bite that suits them. The truth? They should blame themselves.
As was stated by plaintiff attorneys, the foundational requirement for candidates is the requirement that requisite valid signatures be submitted to qualify for the ballot. The losing candidates failed the test.
Forged signatures, disregard for the law, lax campaign oversight, sloppiness.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs meticulously applied the law and exposed the deficiencies.
The courts rendered fair and impartial justice.
To be sure, there are plenty of problems with elections in Arizona:
- “Separate but Unequal” – one system for candidates (Substantial Compliance threshold) and one system for initiatives (Strict Compliance threshold). Call it unfair, rigged, political, antidemocratic even shameful, but, it is an easy fix for policymakers whose motives are pure rather than partisan.
- Dark Money – Disclosure is the least onerous requirement possible and one embraced by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet, in Arizona we continue to tolerate this affront to the integrity of elections and democracy. It is an outrageous indefensible atrocity and crass abuse of power.
- EQual – Expansion and refinement of this system would constitute a giant leap forward in improving, syncing, and modernizing the moving parts of our election system. Opposition to constructive reform is based on fake arguments, manufactured fear, and imagined technical hurdles that do not exist. In short, one reliable secure database with verification, cross referencing, and sorting protocols beats the archaic analog system of “scroll and papyrus.”
Over a century ago, the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Corporation Commission were conceived by reform- minded citizens who feared the corrupting influence of unchecked monopolies. Arizona has experienced a decade of dysfunction on the commission and these candidates would have perpetuated that culture. There can be no denying that the status quo is in decay. The commission must serve the public interest, not self-interest and special interests.
I believe that the forces of entrepreneurship, innovation and capitalism will eventually overwhelm the current paradigm of political manipulation and obsolete regulatory structures. Although we are moving in that direction, until that transition comes, a properly regulated free market with public minded policymakers is the best we can do. The values of those who occupy these positions matters greatly.
It is vital that the commissioners we elect in 2020 be genuinely grounded in core values of fairness, due process and ethics.
It is also vital that the commissioners we elect demonstrate a deep and firm commitment to:
- The New Energy Economy – Embracing the jobs and economic development that come from technological innovation, new market structures and new ideas.
- Renewable Energy, Efficiency & Storage Technology – Aggressively capitalizing on our solar resources, grid investments and transportation infrastructure.
- Environmental Stewardship – Understanding the interlocking complexities of energy, water, land, natural resource conservation and economic development
Those are my litmus tests for any candidate – Republican, Democrat or independent.
This year, every voter should look behind the trite repetitive slogans and be skeptical of outside dark money that will flood this election to “manage your thinking.” Cast aside the “isms” and shallow unreflective arguments of anyone who says this is easy because it is not. The Corporation Commission is a place for serious, smart, thoughtful policymakers, not political climbers. Voters have a civic duty to pay attention.
— Eric Gorsegner is former associate director at the Sonoran Institute, deputy director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, deputy chief of staff to the mayor of Phoenix and senior government relations representative with the Salt River Project.