After the recent drama with governor candidates Kari Lake and Katie Hobbs over interviews to be aired on Arizona PBS, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission has been put in the spotlight. The commission sits in a weird place in state politics, as a nonpartisan resource for candidates for public office and the general voter to participate in elections without corruption.
The Citizens Clean Elections Act, passed in 1998, established a Clean Elections Commission that would administer a statewide system for voter education, clean funding for campaigns and campaign finance enforcement. Since then, the commission has helped run debates and provide public funding to candidates.
The commission creates candidate guides mailed out with ballots, provides links for checking voter registration and registering to vote, and hosts events with election experts on topics concerning voters, such as election security.
During years without elections, the commission reaches out to counties about upcoming elections and updates their website and educational materials to prepare for the next round of races.
In a statement on the commission's website, Executive Director Tom Collins said the 2022 elections are an important undertaking for the commission.
"The public can rely on us to guide them every step of the way, from getting to know candidates, to voter registration, to accessing and casting their ballot," Collins wrote. "We are ready to make this year's clean election one that will make every Arizonan proud."
To become a Clean Elections candidate, a candidate must file a form with the Secretary of State's office, file all required campaign finance reports and refuse to take private financial contributions. Being a Clean Elections candidate qualifies them for public funding for their campaigns, as long as they receive a certain number of $5 contributions from voters in their district.
Kathy Hoffman, Democratic candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, and all candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission are the only statewide candidates running as Clean Elections candidates.
Hoffman's Republican opponent, both candidates for state treasurer, governor, secretary of state and attorney general are not running as Clean Elections candidates. They all have traditional campaign funding models.
This year, as in years past, Clean Elections partnered with Arizona PBS to host debates for the 2022 primary and general elections.
The commission found itself in the news in the last few weeks after Arizona PBS scheduled a 30-minute interview with Hobbs, who previously declined to debate Lake.
Clean Elections then rescheduled Lake's interview with a different news outlet, saying Arizona PBS did not consult their team about the interview with Hobbs. It's unclear how the two organizations will continue to work together on candidate debates in the future.
"The Commission's commitment and obligation under state law is to produce unbiased, fair opportunities for candidates to speak to voters. We intend to make good on that commitment and our commitment to a transparent decision making process," Clean Elections wrote in a statement on Oct. 12.
Hobbs' interview aired on Arizona PBS on Oct. 18 and Lake's rescheduled interview will air on Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. on KATV/AZTV7.
Edited by Piper Hansen, Wyatt Myskow and Luke Chatham.
Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.