Democrats appear poised to win one of the three contested seats for the Arizona Corporation Commission, as Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar leads the field of six candidates to serve on the panel that regulates utilities, among other things.
Tovar is trailed by Republican incumbent Lea Marquez Peterson and Jim O’Connor. Tovar leads Marquez Peterson by about 54,000 votes. O’Connor, who is in third, is beating fellow Republican Eric Sloan by almost 45,000 votes. Tovar’s lead over Sloan is more than 110,000 votes.
The Corporation Commission is a five-member board that regulates utilities, securities and railroads.
Tovar is part of a slate of three Democrats who ran as the “Solar Team 2020,” promising to put the state on a path towards increased use of solar energy and other sustainable energy sources. The other Democratic candidates, former Commissioner William Mundell and Cave Creek Town council member Shea Stanfield, are in fifth- and sixth place. Mundell is about 57,000 votes behind O’Connor.
When initial vote tallies were released Tuesday night, all three Democrats led the race. However, as more votes were counted, the Republicans gained ground and ultimately passed Mundell and Stanfield.
Marquez-Peterson was appointed to the Commision last year. She had been the longtime head of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce before quitting that job to run for Congress in 2018. She lost to Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick.
Marquez-Peterson has said her priority is keeping utility rates affordable.
O’Connor, who narrowly lost in the Repbulican primary in the 2018 Corporation Commission race, said he’ll protect Arizona utility consumers “from unfeasible ideas that would cause utility rates to skyrocket.”
Eric Sloan was the other Republican running for a seat in the regulatory panel.
If Tovar’s lead holds, she’ll join the only other Democrat on the panel, Sandra Kennedy.
In recent years, the Corporation Commission has been mired in conflict of interest concerns and complaints from the public for alleging the regulatory panel favors utility companies like APS, instead of advocating for consumers.