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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Republicans take hold of Arizona Corporation Commission in close race

Logan Cook

The race for Arizona Corporations Commission was tight Tuesday evening as Republicans Bob Burns, Andy Tobin and Boyd Dunn won the three open seats with 22.4, 20.8 and 19.6 percent of the vote. 

Democrats Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin trailed at 18.9 percent and 18.3 percent, respectively. 

The commission manages how much electric, water, waste and gas utility companies in Arizona can charge its customers. One of the main topics of the election was the Republicans’ plans to raise the cost of solar energy.

Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party Jo Holt said the results of the election exemplify people who do not understand what they are voting for.

“Solar is overwhelmingly supported by people of this state, and they’ve gone out and voted for people who want to continue fossil fuels for as long as they possibly can,” Holt said. “So people don’t understand—you can go out and vote, but if you don’t know what you’re doing or who you’re voting for, you can do a lot of damage.”

Holt said she still hopes that someday Arizona will really get behind solar and renewable energy. “The people already do,” she said. But Holt wondered when it will translate into politics.

The results of the election will vastly impact solar energy in Arizona. SolarCity Corp., a private solar energy company, spent $2 million on Democratic candidate Bill Mundell in hopes that if both Democrats running won, they could tilt the balance of the commission in their favor.

Arizona electric companies want the commission to allow them to continue hiking rates for customers who use rooftop solar energy. They began this practice last year, Mundell said, and it resulted in cutting down the amount of people installing solar gardens from 700 a month to around five a month.

With Tuesday’s win, the commission will be able to keep SolarCity’s solar garden sales down and force people to pay more for solar energy through solar farms owned by the electric companies themselves.

The commission has been highly criticized by Democratic candidates Mundell and Tom Chabin as being rigged by the electric companies. They claimed the Arizona Public Service Electric Company paid millions of dollars in “dark money” to fund the campaigns of the candidates that currently hold the position. The FBI also opened an investigation into APS’s role in the 2014 election but was thwarted by the Republican-controlled commission.

“The FBI subpoenaed records and is investigating the election two years ago where the APS put $3.2 million of dark money into the race,” Chabin said.

After the election, the Republicans will continue to hold their positions of power and effectively ground the Democrats’ hopes to prosecute the APS for its alleged dark money campaign.

Mundell said at a debate a few days before the election that he believed the commission elected two years ago is controlled by the electric companies and does whatever it is told to do. 

This year’s election looks to stay the same.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Follow Nate Airulla on Twitter.

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