New campaign finance reports show Realtors put more than $186,000 into the corporation commission race to get a panel it hopes will be more favorable to its issues.
The three Republicans and three Democrats running were all using public money. That limited them to just $137,000 apiece. But the Arizona Association of Realtors gave the GOP contenders a boost by financing a pair of last-minute mailings. Tom Farley, who was the group's CEO, said Realtors had never been concerned about the commission before since its main job is to regulate utility rates. But that was before the panel voted in 2007 to stop electric companies and other ratepayers from subsidizing the cost of extending power lines to homes not near utility poles -- meaning those wanting to build homes further out had to pay the cost themselves.
"And when the change happened and it seemed like no one would pay attention to what it was we were talking about, impact that change had, especially in rural Arizona property owners, we decided at that point we learned a valuable lesson," Farley said. "And we were never going to be apathetic about folks that were running for that office."
A revamped commission subsequently repealed the change. So APS now will subsidize up to 750 feet. But Democrats remain generally opposed, saying the cost of that 'free' extension to some is passed on to everyone else. Farley said that's why his group decided to support the GOP candidates. In the end, all three Democrats were defeated, leaving the five-member commission composed entirely of Republicans.