Conservation group to spend $2.8 M to sway Corp Comm vote

A woman arrives to her polling station, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. Elections officials say 62 polling locations in the Phoenix area weren't operational when voting began in Arizona's primary. (AP Photo/Matt York)

If money is speech, the state’s largest electric utility is not going to have the only voice this year in trying to affect who gets elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Chispa Arizona is launching a $2.8 million television ad buy Thursday in its bid to get support for Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears. And the organization, an affiliate of the national League of Conservation Voters, also is planning some radio and Internet advertising aimed largely at the state’s Latino community.

The move comes as Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Service, already has put $3.2 million into an account specifically to influence elections.

To date, that committee operating under the banner of Arizonans for Sustainable Energy Policy, has not made contributions to individual candidates. But it has doled out $300,000 to the Arizona Republican Party to support its slate.

That still leaves the committee with nearly $2.6 million for a last-minute ad blitz.

Matthew Benson, spokesman for the Pinnacle West-funded group, declined to say Wednesday how that cash would be spent.

“We don’t have any campaign plans to announce at this time,” he said.

And APS spokesman Alan Bunnell declined to say if the company intends to spend money in other ways to influence the commission race.

“We don’t disclose our political strategies,” he said.

Bunnell said the company has promised to disclose all political funding in its annual report. That, however, does not come out until next spring.

But Laura Dent, executive director of the Chispa Arizona political action committee, said her organization sees no need to wait and see what APS is going to do. She pointed out the utility has a record of trying to elect regulators it believes will give it favorable treatment.

Two years ago it spent $4.2 million to ensure that the commission remained an all-Republican affair. And the company will neither confirm nor deny it was the source of $3.2 million spent by two groups, that aren’t required to disclose donors, to elect Republicans in 2014.

“For too long the Corporation Commission has been under the influence of the largest private utility in the state that it’s supposed to regulate,” she said. “I think it’s a moral hazard that the state’s largest utility, which is a private monopoly with 1.2 million captive audience members as customers is the dominant voice in the election of its own regulators.”

A key purpose behind the commercial is to help break the stranglehold the GOP has had on the five-member commission since the 2012 election. It has been the outside spending that has helped keep that unilateral control in place.

Dent wants voters to oust incumbent Justin Olson who was appointed to the panel last year by Gov. Doug Ducey, and defeat attorney Rodney Glassman, the other GOP contender for the two four-year terms up for grabs this year.

Dent said that Chispa, which focuses on environmental issues particularly from the viewpoint of the Hispanic community, believes that Sears and Kennedy will be better choices.

“Latinos are disproportionately affected by climate change,” she said, with Hispanics paying a larger percentage of their income in energy costs. Then there’s the number of Latinos who work outside in agricultural and construction jobs and are exposed to higher temperatures.

“And Latinos are more likely to live in areas with high pollution and they have higher rates of asthma,” she said.

But Dent said the TV commercials, coupled with the online and radio campaign, has another purpose: informing voters of exactly what the Arizona Corporation Commission is and does.

“There’s still a lot of Arizona residents out there that don’t know what this corporation (commission) does, and doing that in a really accessible way,” she said.

Dent said the League of Conservation Voters is the largest’ contributor, though she would not disclose what percentage of the money it is providing.

Alyssa Roberts, a spokeswoman for that organization, said the cash is part of more than $60 million the  LCV Victory Fund and its state partners are spending this year, including $25 million to affect state races.

Asked about the source of the dollars, Roberts cited reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The most recent filing shows billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York City, as the largest contributor at $2 million. Bloomberg recently reregistered as a Democrat, leading to speculation he is looking at a 2020 presidential bid.

Earlier this month Bloomberg pledged $1 million to back an initiative in the state of Washington to charge large polluters an escalating fee on fossil fuel emissions.

The funding to help Sears and Kennedy is on top of $250,000 that California billionaire Tom Steyer is spending on their behalf. He is the source of virtually all of the funds being spent to promote Proposition 127 which would mandate half of electricity in Arizona come from renewable sources by 2030, a measure opposed by APS.

But Dent said that neither Steyer nor any of his political committees are funding this $2.8 million campaign, directly or indirectly.


Corporation Commission candidates debate renewable energy initiative

In this photo of the Sept. 20, 2018, Arizona Corporation Commission debate on KAET-TV are from left Rodney Glassman, Republican, Sandra Kennedy, Democrat, Ted Simons, host, Kiana Sears, Democrat, and Justin Olson, Republican. The candidates are vying for two open seats on the commission. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
In this photo of the Sept. 20, 2018, Arizona Corporation Commission debate on KAET-TV are from left Rodney Glassman, Republican, Sandra Kennedy, Democrat, Ted Simons, host, Kiana Sears, Democrat, and Justin Olson, Republican. The candidates are vying for two open seats on the commission. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Democrat Sandra Kennedy said Thursday there would be no need for voters to impose a renewable energy mandate if state utility regulators would do their job.

Kennedy, one of four contenders for two seats up for grabs at the Arizona Corporation Commission, said she supports Proposition 127. That measure on the November ballot would require utilities regulated by the commission to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

That would override the standard set by the commission of 15 percent by 2025.

“The renewable energy standard has been stalled for more than a decade,” said Kiana Sears, the other Democrat in the race and a former commission staffer during an hour-long debate on KAET-TV, the Phoenix PBS affiliate. She said the Republicans who have controlled the panel since that time and now have all five seats have failed to revisit and revamp it.

Both Republican contenders, Justin Olson who was appointed to the commission last year and attorney Rodney Glassman, oppose the initiative.

“This is a mandate that wasn’t even written by Arizonans,” Glassman complained, pointing out it is being advanced by Californian Tom Steyer whom he called a “leftist billionaire.” He argued — as has Arizona Public Service Co. which is financing the opposition — that the mandate would double and possibly triple what customers pay for electricity.

“That is a facade,” Sears responded.

“We know that solar energy costs less,” she said, citing costs as low as 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour versus double that for carbon-based sources.

Olson agreed that the cost of solar has plummeted so much “that it actually is the most cost-effective way of generating electricity — while the sun is shining.”

“The problem is that folks get home from work and the sun fades below the horizon and they still have an expectation that when they turn on the switch that the lights are going to come on,” he said.

He acknowledged the developments in battery technology to store what is generated during the day. But Olson said that when you add the current cost of those batteries, solar loses its financial edge.

He said the record from California should be a lesson for Arizonans, where he said electric rates are 50 percent higher than here.

“This is a burden that will be placed on hardworking Arizona families and businesses and it’s a burden that I don’t support,” Olson said.

Kennedy said she’s not buying the argument that the initiative would mean higher rates.

“It’s propaganda,” she said. “It’s the same propaganda that APS is spewing.”

And she said surrounding states not only have more aggressive renewable standards than what now exist in Arizona but are actually increasing them even as there is no change being proposed here.

But Glassman said there’s more to that story.

He said that California, which already has a 50 percent renewable energy mandate, generates so much power in the middle of the day from solar it actually is paying Arizona utilities “to take that solar off their grid.”

“Their failed policies in California have created excess supply to our benefit,” Glassman said. “And so I do not support giving up our economic development competitive advantage by putting these mandates forward.”

Kennedy, who served as a commissioner from 2009 through 2012, said the initiative was born out of frustration with the standards not having been revisited since the current version was adopted in 2006.

“If the commissioners were doing their jobs, the people of this state would not be going to a ballot measure,” she said, saying 80 percent of people want renewable energy. “Why can’t Arizona be the solar capital of the world?”

All four contenders did agree on one key point: There is low voter confidence in the current commission.

The panel came under public scrutiny most recently with the indictment of former Commission Chairman Gary Pierce on charges of being bribed by the owner of Johnson Utilities. A jury split 7-5 to acquit and federal prosecutors chose not to retry the defendants.

Kennedy said she was on the commission when the panel first approved a change in rates for the water and sewer company, saying the plan had “some teeth” to ensure adequate customer service. It was only after the panel became an all-Republican affair, she said, that Pierce moved to revisit the case, removed the restrictions “and gave Mr. Johnson everything that he wanted.”

Moderator Ted Simons pointed out it also was the all-Republican commission that voted to allow APS to raise its rates, a move that has provoked an outcry and a call to revisit the approval after many customers found their bills had gone up far more than had been advertised.

But Olson, who was not on the commission for that vote, said what happened in the past should not deter voters from putting him back on the commission and electing Glassman, a move that would keep the panel under GOP control.

“Unfortunately, some folks violated that public trust,” said Olson. “But that doesn’t mean that some of the folks that are before the voters today violated that public trust.”

Olson also pointed out that he attempted to get the commission to adopt some strict rules, including a ban on accepting donations from regulating utilities. But Kennedy noted the majority of the panel refused to go along and yet Olson supported what was left.

He countered that it would make no sense to oppose some new restrictions just because he didn’t get everything he wanted.

Glassman, for his part, said he has proposed that the commission live under the same rules that govern judges who must recuse themselves if any party in an issue that comes before them has been a contributor.

But no one had an answer to a query by Simons to the fact that under Arizona law utilities can simply give money anonymously to third parties who in turn can wage political campaigns to elect the regulators they want.

That is precisely what APS was accused of doing in the 2014 campaign when outside groups put $3.2 million into electing Republicans. APS will neither confirm nor deny it was the source of those funds.


Ducey tops field of gubernatorial candidates in campaign spending

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Democrats don’t even have a gubernatorial candidate yet.

But that hasn’t kept the Republican Governors Association from already spending more than $9.2 million to ensure that Doug Ducey gets another four-year term, virtually all of that for commercials to attack David Garcia.

In fact, the latest campaign filings show that Steve Farley isn’t even on the organization’s radar, though Kelly Fryer did register a blip with $12,950 to produce a commercial against her.

And as to pro-Ducey efforts? Those amount to less than $32,000.

RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said his organization normally doesn’t talk about how it spends its money, dollars generated through business contributions to the national organization. But he did allow that much of it was based in Garcia’s standing as frontrunner among the Democrat contenders in the polls.

The new spending on the incumbent’s behalf is on top of $1.7 million the governor’s own campaign committee already has spent. And he has a nice cushion, with $3.2 million in the bank.

Meanwhile his Republican foe Ken Bennett continued to struggle Tuesday to get the last of the 4,000 $5 donations that would qualify him for public funding for his primary bid.

The deadline to collect those was at midnight Tuesday night. And Bennett said he was hopeful to get in under the wire.

But even if he does qualify, that would entitle him to just $839,704. And he would have less than a week to use it up to boost his chances of upsetting Ducey’s bid to once again become the party’s nominee.

To date, Bennett’s campaign has largely been limited to social media and press releases.

Some of those postings criticize the incumbent for his school safety proposal to allow judges to temporarily lock up and take guns from people who are considered a danger. Bennett, instead, said he would put more armed personnel into schools.

And the balance have been his efforts to get those $5 donations before the deadline.

Bennett said, however, even if he doesn’t get the public funding he still “absolutely” remains a viable candidate in Tuesday’s primary.

On the Democrat side, Garcia has reported collecting slightly more than $1 million, with $881,000 in expenses.

Yet Farley, trailing him in polls, actually has spent more in his bid for the nomination, burning through most of the $1.3 million collected, leaving him $94,000 in the bank.

Fryer, operating on a relative shoestring, has taken in about $176,000 and spent about $157,000.

Still, a new statewide poll shows Garcia cannot presume he will be the victor, even if the RGA is presuming him as such.

Pollster Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights said the survey, conducted last week, found Garcia the favorite of 40 percent of those asked. That compares with 25 percent who said they support Farley, with Fryer far behind at 7 percent.

But Noble said more than a quarter of the 589 people questioned said they had yet to make up their mind. And he found one specifically bright note for Farley, showing him leading Garcia in Pima County by 14 points.

Slightly further down on the ballot, incumbent Secretary of State Michele Reagan continues to be outspent by Republican primary foe Steve Gaynor.

Reagan has collected about $652,000 so far against more than $493,000 in expenses. But she also has managed to repay herself nearly $17,000 of the $70,000 of her own cash that she put up.

Gaynor, however, appears going in the opposite direction.

He put another $500,000 of his own cash into his bid to become the GOP nominee. That’s on top of the $1 million Gaynor had used to start his campaign.

Less than $11,000 has come from outside sources.

The five-way GOP race for state school superintendent has incumbent Diane Douglas down near the bottom of the donation barrel, with less than $24,000. Only Tracy Livingston has raised less at about $23,000.

The other three Republicans are relying in some form on loans to get them nominated, lead by Frank Riggs who borrowed $65,200 of the $108,000 he has raised. Jonathan Gelbart listed a $25,000 loan as part of his nearly $103,000 in donations, with a $6,000 loan financing the $35,000 bid by Bob Branch to get elected.

On the Democrat side of the ballot, David Schapira and Kathy Hoffman are pretty much evenly matched with the nearly $109,000 each is getting in public funds.

In the Republic race for Arizona Corporation Commission, incumbent Tom Forese leads all five contenders for the two seats, with nearly $597,000 in donations, including $141,000 of his own money. Fellow incumbent Justin Olson is far behind with just $68,000 in contributions.

Challenger Rodney Glassman reports more than $551,000 in donations, including $100,000 of his own cash, with Eric Sloan listing less than $24,000 in income. The fifth candidate, Jim O’Connor, is running with nearly $109,000 in public money plus another $33,000 in cash he was allowed to raise on his own.

On the Democrat side, Bill Mundell, Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears all qualified for that $109,000 in public funding.

Kimberly Yee, hoping to be the Republican nominee for treasurer, listed $574,000 in donations, including $325,000 owed on a loan to the campaign from Nelson Mar. That far overwhelms the $8,375 collected by Jo Ann Sabbagh which includes $1,800 of her own money.



GOP Corp Comm candidates lead by less than 1 percentage point

In this photo of the Sept. 20, 2018, Arizona Corporation Commission debate on KAET-TV are from left Rodney Glassman, Republican, Sandra Kennedy, Democrat, Ted Simons, host, Kiana Sears, Democrat, and Justin Olson, Republican. The candidates are vying for two open seats on the commission. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
In this photo of the Sept. 20, 2018, Arizona Corporation Commission debate on KAET-TV are from left Rodney Glassman, Republican, Sandra Kennedy, Democrat, Ted Simons, host, Kiana Sears, Democrat, and Justin Olson, Republican. The candidates are vying for two open seats on the commission. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

The Arizona Corporation Commission will remain entirely red if Tuesday night’s early ballot results hold true, but less than one percentage point currently separates first and third place.

The two Republicans in the race, incumbent Commissioner Justin Olson and newcomer Rodney Glassman,are leading over Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears, but just barely. According to early ballot returns, Olson has claimed 25.96 percent of the vote, while Glassman has 25.88 percent.

But Kennedy is not far behind with 24.98 percent as of Wednesday morning. Sears is at the back of the pack with 23.18 percent.

Even without Democratic wins, though, the results of tonight’s ACC election could have serious consequences for the state’s largest public utility, Arizona Public Service.

Glassman staked out a clear anti-APS position on the campaign trail, a strategy that led him to claim one of two GOP primary nominations over current Commissioner Tom Forese.

Olson has also been known to take positions that run contrary to the company’s interests. Among them, Olson has expressed willingness to dig into the utilities election spending in 2014 and re-opening the door to talk of retail electric deregulation. The latter would open up the energy retail and generation markets to competition, not an ideal outcome for utilities like APS that are currently allowed to operate as regulated monopolies.

That and APS’ election spending habits are topics Commissioner Bob Burns is fond of. Burns is both a Republican and an APS foe, and he’s vying to be the commission’s next chair.


Arizona Corporation Commission by the numbers

Early votes 


Justin Olson 25.96 percent

Rodney Glassman 25.88 percent


Sandra Kennedy 24.98 percent

Kiana Sears 23.18 percent

Kennedy’s lead grows in Corp Comm race

Sandra Kennedy
Sandra Kennedy

The latest votes counted appear to put Democrat Sandra Kennedy close to being able to reclaim a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

But there still are enough uncounted ballots out there to leave the race for secretary of state up in the air for another day — if not longer.

New figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show Kennedy has so far tallied 1,004,281 votes. That puts her more than 10,000 votes ahead of incumbent Republican Justin Olson.

But the key here is that there are two seats up for grabs. And even if there is a late burst of votes for Olson, appointed last year after Doug Little quit to take a job in the Trump administration, Kennedy, who served on the commission from 2009 through 2012, still has about 14,500 votes more than Rodney Glassman, the other Republican on the ticket.

Glassman, a Phoenix attorney, could still overtake Olson to get a seat on the panel that regulates utility rates. But unless both he and Olson also overtake Kennedy, she will get one of the two open spots.

Kiana Sears, the other Democrat in the race, is out of the running with 50,000 fewer votes than even Glassman.

In the race for secretary of state, Democrat Katie Hobbs is maintaining her lead over Republican Steve Gaynor — but just barely.

The new returns give her an edge of 4,957  votes. That difference actually about 500 votes less than the margin after counting ended on Monday.

There are still a lot of early ballots to be counted. Maricopa County alone has 126,000 to be processed.

But the trend of those ballots has generally been in favor of the Democrats, with Kennedy outpolling Olson, a former state representative lawmaker from Mesa, by nearly 8,000 votes.

And Hobbs, a state senator from Phoenix, has 12,000 more votes from Maricopa County than businessman Gaynor.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said those seeking a quick end to the counting should not hold their breath.

“Some of the ballots we are currently processing require extra attention and research,” he said in a prepared statement. “We are taking the time needed to make sure every voter’s voice is heard.”

Spokeswoman Murphy Hebert said many of these are “conditional provisional” ballots — those that were cast at polling places but people did not bring the proper identification. They are, however, permitted to have the ballots counted if they show up at the recorder’s office after Election Day.

Others include the early ballots where signatures on the envelopes do not match what is on file. A court order Friday confirmed that counties have through the end of the day Wednesday to contact voters to determine if they did, in fact, sign the envelopes.

And then there are other issues, like stray marks on ballots or someone voting for more than one person for an office. These ballots are kicked out of the counting machines and review boards need to check them to determine a voter’s intent before crafting a new — and clean — ballot.


Outside groups big spenders in races for statewide offices


Cash from outside groups is rivaling – and in some cases exceeding – what candidates for statewide office are spending on their own election campaigns.

And that doesn’t count what state law allows to be kept hidden.

The biggest source of outside cash in statewide races is the Republican Governors Association, which already has set aside nearly $9.6 million to ensure that Doug Ducey gets elected to another four-year term. Most of that is for commercials blasting Democrat David Garcia.

But Ducey, with the benefits of incumbency, is no slouch when it comes to raising money. He has collected $6 million into his own campaign.

And that doesn’t count another $5.1 million raised in Ducey’s name by another committee that was transferred to the Arizona Republican Party.

That’s the big black hole in the publicly filed campaign finance reports.

Arizona law allows political parties to spend as they wish, without identifying who their mailers and ads support or target. And there’s a lot of money out there.

The Arizona Republican Party reports spending more than $6 million, with no disclosure of which candidates are beneficiaries. There are commercials running on behalf of Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich where the fine print discloses they were paid for by the party.

Democrats are doing the same thing, with campaign reports showing more than $9.2 million in expenditures.

Some is going to help elect Katie Hobbs as secretary of state. Reports filed with the Federal Communications Commission show about $2.2 million in ad buys. And the organization also has gotten $750,000 from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, presumably to have the party help January Contreras defeat Brnovich.

What is required to be publicly disclosed shows that in the governor’s race Garcia is getting no support from the Democratic Governors Association. That’s not to say, however, that Garcia is getting no outside financial assistance.

Planned Parenthood Votes has spent more than $564,000 to help Garcia win the office. And Progress Now Arizona has put in another $323,000 in both pro-Garcia and anti-Ducey efforts.

But Garcia’s biggest source of outside support comes from NextGen Climate Action, a political action committee formed by California billionaire Tom Steyer. Aside from financing most of the campaign for Proposition 127, his PAC has put in nearly $790,000 to help Garcia defeat Ducey.

Steyer also is involved, at least indirectly, in trying to help Contreras oust Brnovich: The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Committee, supporting that ballot measure, also has reported spending more than $4.2 million on her behalf.

All that spending came about after Prop 127 proponents accused Brnovich of using his position to add wording to the explanation of the initiative that will appear on the ballot. They complained the additional wording was designed to sway voters against the measure; Brnovich has defended the language as factually correct.

Contreras reported $864,000 in donations to her own campaign.

Brnovich himself has raised more than $1 million. But he also is getting outside help from the Republican Attorneys General Association, which under the banner of Arizona For Freedom, has spent more than $1.7 million primarily in attack ads against Contreras.

There’s also a lot of outside cash going into the race for the two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Democrats Kiana Sears and Sandra Kennedy each have received about $271,000 of public funds in exchange for not taking private donations.

But none of that keeps others from spending on their behalf. And Chispa Arizona, an arm of the League of Conservation Voters, has at last count put more than $3.7 million into getting them elected.

The League does not disclose donors.

Incumbent Republican Justin Olson has reported $144,000 in campaign expenditures, including what he spent on the primary race.

Rodney Glassman, the other Republican in the race, listed his expenses at more than $521,000, including $200,000 of his own money.

But Glassman’s self-spending pales in comparison with that of Republican Steve Gaynor who wants to be secretary of state. Gaynor, who snagged the GOP nomination by defeating incumbent Michele Reagan in the primary, has put in $2.35 million of his own cash which makes up more than 90 percent of all his donations.

On the Democrat side, Katie Hobbs has collected more than $925,000 but is getting help from the state party which is buying ads for her.

In the race for state treasurer, Republican Kimberly Yee reported contributions of $528,000, including $200,000 of family money. Democrat Mark Manoil is running with $270,000 in public financing.

Sentiment towards APS could affect various political races


The outcome of several key races on next week’s ballot could turn on how Arizonans feel about their utility company — especially if it’s Arizona Public Service.

Officially, the only race in which APS is directly involved, at least to date, is its high-dollar effort to quash an initiative that would force it and other utilities to generate half of their power from renewable sources by 2030. At last count the utility had spent more than $30 million against Proposition 127.

Recent polls suggest all that spending may be paying off, even with Prop 127 proponents pretty much matching the utility dollar for dollar.

But the fact that Arizonans aren’t willing to back a proposal by a California billionaire to amend the state constitution does not mean people are happy with APS. And that has implications in both the race for Arizona Corporation Commission and the attorney general.

Political consultant Chuck Coughlin of HighGround said he saw that first hand recently at a meeting of East Valley women who are active in politics when the subject of Proposition 127 came up.

“The vitriol about APS in the room was more than palpable,” he said.

Coughlin said many of the women agreed that the initiative was a bad idea.

“But APS has been screwing us for a long time, they’re bad people,” he recalled of the comments. “It was pretty remarkable to watch this.”

Coughlin said the differentiation that the people were making there is reflected in data his firm has collected statewide which, as he puts it, shows “127 is getting its ass kicked.”

But that anti-APS feeling is spilling into other races, including the bid by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, for another four-year term.

“Brnovich was taking some heat,” Coughlin said. And he said anyone perceived to be a friend of the utility “is vulnerable.”

Brnovich, for his part, has sought to distance himself from the money that APS parent Pinnacle West Capital Corp. has given to the Republican Attorneys General Association which, in turn, spent big four years ago and again this year to get him elected. Brnovich said he does not control what RAGA solicits nor how it spends its cash.

But ads taken out by the Prop 127 organizers have sought to tie Brnovich to the utility after his office reworded the description of the measure that voters will see on the ballot with words that could arguably be considered designed to sway sentiment against it. It did not help Brnovich that, within days, the APS-financed anti-127 campaign was using his added language in its commercials.

So intent are Prop 127 organizers to taint Brnovich with APS that one of its commercials even overlays NASCAR-style APS logos all over the attorney general’s suit.

The other key campaign where feelings about APS could have some impact is in the race for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

It already played a role in the defeat of incumbent Tom Forese in the Republican primary.

Part of that is public anger over rate hikes approved last year by the commission and complaints by customers, forced into new rate plans that they were lied to about the extent of the increases. Those complaints have forced the commission to reopen the issue.

Forese also had the taint of APS from his 2014 election when the utility would neither confirm nor deny it was the source of $3.2 million spent by “dark money” organizations to elect him and fellow Republican Doug Little.

Little has since quit, with Gov. Doug Ducey appointing Justin Olson to the post.

Olson now is making it a point to tell voters that he was not on the commission when the rate hike was approved. And he has taken an active role in the current hearings about whether to alter the controversial rate structure.

He and fellow Republican Rodney Glassman, who defeated Forese in the GOP primary, also have vowed to do something else: support a bid by Commissioner Bob Burns to force APS to open up its books to divulge all of the company’s political spending.

But Olson has taken heat for using talking points prepared by APS in his conversation with Wall Street investors. And that creates an opportunity for at least one of the two Democrats to get elected to the utility regulatory panel, Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears.

Glassman also has taken pains to insulate himself against anti-APS sentiment.

He has promised not to take money from any regulated utility. And Glassman wants the commission to adopt the same code of conduct that applies to judges, a code that would keep regulators from deciding on issues involving those who have contributed to their campaigns.

Glassman said he, too, has seen the anger at APS on the campaign trail.

“The number one question I get is, ‘Are you taking money from APS?’ ” he said. In fact Glassman, running as a team with Olson, said he is considering putting disclaimers on his campaign signs saying it is not funded by any utility — or “any out-of-state billionaire,” a reference to the money that Tom Steyer, the financier of Proposition 127, has put into electing Kennedy and Sears.

Pollster Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights said his company did some market research about five months ago about Salt River Project, the other electric utility in the Phoenix area — and one that has lower rates. He said his firm used APS as a comparison.

In both cases, Noble said, he found the positive numbers in the 80-plus percent range.

He acknowledged the questions, asked before the political campaigns got into full swing, were not about politics but instead more “brand awareness.” But Noble said it’s not surprising that customers generally have good feelings for the people who supply their electrons.

“It’s power,” he said. “They like it unless it’s not on.”

Noble acknowledged that the results may not reflect the views of the “politically active” who tend to show up at meetings like the one Coughlin attended. But he said the survey got a broad enough cross section to reflect the views of people who will be going to the polls.

The Breakdown: Let’s consult the crystal ball



The end of this election cycle is upon us, and while some races are more than predictable, others may be too close to call.

Among them, the U.S. Senate race remains up in the air, and Democrats have a fighting chance for at least two statewide offices.

You’ve heard us and everyone else talk about the blue wave for months now – now, we’ll see if the promised surge will deliver.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.

Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.