Jennings loses bid for election to corporation commission - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Jennings loses bid for election to corporation commission

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Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 4:51 pm | Updated: 9:05 am, Thu Aug 26, 2010.

Former utility regulator Renz Jennings has apparently failed in his bid to once again become a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Vote tallies Wednesday night showed Jennings running about 6,000 votes behind the other two Democrats seeking to become their party's nominees, Jorge Garcia and David Bradley.

Jennings noted there were still ballots to be counted. "But I don't think you can make up 6,000," he said.

Garcia and Bradley, both currently state legislators from Tucson, will face off in November against incumbent Gary Pierce, seeking to retain his post for another four-year term, and former state Sen. Brenda Burns. Barry Wong, the third Republican in the race, ran far behind the other two.

Republican Kris Mayes, who chairs the commission, cannot run for reelection.

Jennings was the only Democrat who actually has experience on the commission which regulates the rates charged by private utilities. But he said none of that apparently made any impression, perhaps in part because he last served in 1998.

He said another factor may have been at work.

"There's a justifiable pride in an ethnic candidate, I guess, an Hispanic candidate like Jorge," Jennings said.

He pointed out that Democrats got to cast two votes each among the three candidates. Jennings said he suspects that Garcia "got a lot of first votes and a lot of second votes."

The commission, with Mayes, is currently composed of three Republicans and two Democrats. With both seats up for grabs now held by Republicans, that gives Democrats a chance to take control of the panel, something they have not had since the 1996 election.

All the candidates from both parties say they support continued mandates on utilities to generate more of their power from renewable sources. But there are efforts at the Legislature to strip the commission of its ability to impose such a requirement.

One pending issue is whether the commission will reinstate its "line extension" policy.

Until several years ago, Arizona Public Service paid the cost of installing up to 1,000 feet of new wire to new homes and subdivisions. Tucson Electric Power gave 500 feet of free line.

That all disappeared when the Arizona Corporation Commission dropped those requirements as part of the utilities' rate agreements. Regulators said it was not fair for other ratepayers to subsidize new development.

But now the commission is revisiting the subject.

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