The Arizona Corporation Commission is one of those hazy government bodies that few people know anything about. (It’s so obscure, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry yet.) Generally, when commissioners are in the news, it’s because they’ve been hit with a $60 million legal judgment.
So what does the commission do? From the ACC Web site:
By virtue of the Arizona Constitution, the Commissioners function in an Executive capacity, they adopt rules and regulations thereby functioning in a Legislative capacity, and they also act in a Judicial capacity sitting as a tribunal and making decisions in contested matters.
We’re not sure what that means either. Here’s what you really need to know about the ACC: They decide whether utilities can increase rates. (Also, they have some authority to push for alternative energy requirements, which fits in with all that sustainability stuff we hear these days.)
There are three Democrats running for ACC seats.
Paul Newman, the long time salad-dressing mogul and occasional actor, has not decided to enter the political arena at age 83. Instead, Arizona voters can choose the “other” Paul Newman, as he happily identifies himself. Newman served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1993 to 1999, and narrowly lost a bid for the Corporation Commission 10 years ago. He’s also been a county supervisor of neighboring Cochise County since 2001, a delegate to the 1996 and 2000 Democratic Conventions, a former private defender and current private law office holder and a member of the Democratic Leadership Council.
Newman cites conservation, clean energy, green collar jobs and a sustainable economy as his prime focuses. In addition to his focus on green issues, he’s a member of the Conservation Leaders Network, a national conservation body.
“This is a very critical time in addressing climate change. We need people on the corporation commission who can take strong actions to make sure that the climate is protected. My information is that the six candidates running on the Republican side are dubious about climate change. This is no time to be dubious about anything, it’s time to take action,” says Newman.
Newman is running on a slate with Sandra Kennedy, which could potentially be one of the most devastating presidential tickets ever, if it happened 20 years ago. A Kennedy teaming with Paul Newman? You might as well hand over the keys to Air Force One before the election starts. As to his famous name, Newman says it’s a coincidence of history that they share the name, as he was born just before Newman’s film career exploded. Not that he minds the connection.
“[My mother] gave me an ability to be recognized and for people to remember my name. It’s been a big boon in my ability to get elected, and it’s been a boon in my ability to be independent and strong. I don’t have to be the pawn of anyone. My name helps carry me in elections.”
If your personal goal for the Corporation Commission is to advocate solar energy as much as humanly possible, Sandra Kennedy seems to match up with that idea.
“Here in Arizona, being in the Southwest, we could probably be the solar capital of the west. When we look at what California has done and what New Mexico has done, we’re right in the middle, we’re sandwiched,” says Kennedy. “I think we need to look at our standards and what we’re doing and compare ourselves to the states around us and maybe do just a little bit better. I think when it comes to the reliability issues and the rate issues, people will want to chose whether they do an alternative usage, and I think that should be available not just to individual home owners, but to businesses also.”
For the past 13 years, Kennedy has run her own Denny’s franchise. She’s also served in both houses of the Arizona Legislature, from 1986 to 2000. She sites her experience with the legislature as a motivating factor in her run for the Corporation Commission.
“I personally feel that my experience in the legislature, and seeing what the current commission has done with the renewable standards, I believe it’s a great start, but we can probably do better,” says Kennedy.
Sam George is a political weasel who never got back to us.