On the ballot for all Arizona voters is three of the five seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which decides utility rates and policies.
The commission is responsible for setting regulations on clean-energy rules as well as increasing or decreasing utility rates from services such as Arizona Public Service Co.
Three seats are going to be filled by the 2020 general election, and each party is looking to gain the majority of the five-seat commission.
The three Republican candidates — Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson, James O'Connor and Eric Sloan — are encouraging voters to "vote the slate," while the Democratic candidates — William Mundell, Shea Stanfield and Anna Tovar — are running as "Solar Team 2020."
Two write-in candidates are also running for a seat on the Commission: Republican Patrick Finerd and Christina Gibson, who has no official party affiliation.
Márquez Peterson is running for her second term on the Arizona Corporation Commission as the race's only incumbent. She was appointed to the office by Gov. Doug Ducey in May 2019 to serve the remainder of Andy Tobin's term, after Tobin was appointed as the director of the state Department of Administration by Ducey.
Márquez Peterson has served as the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
According to Márquez Peterson's campaign website, her top priority since being appointed is keeping utility rates affordable and utility companies accountable.
Márquez Peterson has supported the expansion of San Tan Valley’s wastewater treatment plant, and successfully advocated for over $40 million in refunds for customers between Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is a supporter of clean energy and pushed to pass a policy that would require state electric utilities to generate 100% of its power using clean energy sources by 2050.
Márquez Peterson passed a code of ethics for the commission, aimed to "eliminate corruption and influence" from utility companies. Provisions from the code include barring commissioners and candidates for the position from accepting political donations from utility companies.
O'Connor has worked in finance and securities for 42 years, and has volunteered for various leadership positions within Arizona's Republican Party.
O'Connor believes the Commission is important because of the impact its decisions have on a family's budget.
In a campaign video, O'Connor says he opposes the Democrats running in the election, who refer to themselves as Solar Team 2020, because he believes Arizonans already showed they do not want the policies like those the Team proposes after Arizona Proposition 127 failed in 2018.
O'Connor has voiced his opposition to California's energy policies, saying in a campaign video that he was "fortunate and blessed enough to have escaped" the state. According to his campaign website, he wants to prevent "radical leftists" from controlling the Commission, as they are "intent on turning Arizona into California."
His campaign website lists opposing unfair rate increases and "job-killing" green energy mandates among his priorities, along with protecting small businesses and Arizona families.
If elected, O'Connor says he will hold monthly town halls over the phone to provide Arizonans additional opportunities to provide their direct input to O'Connor and any other commissioners that join his town hall calls.
Sloan has a professional background in economic development and education public policy, according to his campaign website.
According to Sloan's campaign website, he says he is running for commissioner to defend Arizona families from utility companies who "unfairly raised our rates and put people in danger."
Sloan says on his campaign website his biggest priority is temporarily suspending peak rates, which he claims results in a 140% increase in the cost of electricity to state ratepayers between 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
He said in a statement that peak rates have "never been a great deal for seniors and working families," and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated its damages.
Sloan said he will work to implement consumer protections during extreme weather, claiming utility shut offs during summer have led to heat-related deaths.
He also says on his campaign website he will work to fight financial crime by working with the State Legislature to strengthen protections, and work with the Arizona Attorney General to "facilitate the prosecution of white collar criminals."
Sloan also served as the chief of public policy and external affairs at the state Department of Gaming, until he was fired in 2016 for harassing workers, the Arizona Republic reported. The harassment included singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," a song related to slavery, while passing by the desk of a Black worker and "gaslighting" a female co-worker.
Mundell is running for his third term on the Commission. He served two terms after being appointed by then-Gov. Jane Dee Hull in 1999. He left the commission in 2009, after serving the two consecutive term limit for corporation commissioners.
According to Mundell’s campaign website, his major priorities are stopping corruption, protecting ratepayers and increasing solar usage.
Mundell says utility companies ultimately influence the election of the corporation's commissioners. If elected, he says he will work to bring "real and lasting ethics reform" by demanding transparency from utilities.
Mundell would also push to end "price-fixing" and "backroom deals" between the commission and utilities, something he claims costs ratepayers millions of dollars.
Mundell's campaign website claims himself as the "Godfather of Solar" in Arizona. He said he will bring back solar incentives, which he claimed "APS-backed commissioners repealed," and push to make the state carbon neutral by 2050.
His campaign website also says he wants to increase the state's Renewable Energy Standard Tariff to 100% by the same year, a tax he authored in 2006.
Stanfield worked as a teacher for 40 years and is running a campaign focused on sustainable and renewable energy sources for Arizona. Her political experience includes serving on the Cave Creek Town Council, Board of Adjustment and Planning and Zoning Commission, in addition to working with her local teachers' union.
If elected, Stanfield would advocate for more aggressive standards under the Renewable Energy Standard Tariff. Currently, this requires Arizona electric utility companies to use renewable resources for 15% of their energy by 2025; Stanfield's campaign website says she would increase this requirement to 50% by 2030, and to 100% by 2050.
In addition to a higher renewable energy standard, Stanfield would pursue a more open relationship between the Commission and Arizonans, if elected.
According to her campaign website, she would improve the transparency of the Commission by holding meetings and hearings throughout Arizona and promoting the Commission's online meeting options.
Stanfield has spoken against "utility monopolies" in Arizona using "dark money contributions to buy and elect a majority of the commissioners."
Tovar is currently the mayor of Tolleson and the first woman to hold the office. She has an extensive background in Arizona politics, serving on the Tolleson City Council as the city’s vice mayor, and in both houses of the State Legislature.
According to her campaign website, she is running for the Commission to better serve "the consumers of Arizona" by restoring the Commission's transparency and integrity.
Tovar's main priority if elected will be to include lower income and underserved communities in discussions regarding energy policy, according to her campaign website.
Tovar is an advocate for renewable and carbon free energy sources, specifically the use of solar power.
If she is elected, her campaign website says she will use combating climate change as an economic opportunity, by creating jobs in the shift to renewable energy and working with the private and educational sectors to develop training programs for Arizonans to then fill these jobs.
Tovar believes the current code of ethics for the Commission should be expanded. Her campaign website lists additional rules she would push for, such as prohibiting Commission candidates from taking donations from regulated entities and anyone affiliated with them and barring Commissioners and their immediate family from working as part of any entities regulated by the Commission.
Jeffrey Horst is the digital editor-in-chief of The State Press. He previously served as the publication's sports editor and worked at Cronkite News and ArizonaSports.com.