UPDATE: Is Arizona’s Clean Energy Future Clouded by Dirty Politics?

Solar panels on ASU parking garage, Tempe, AZ

UPDATE

Steve May

Steve May, the GOP candidate whose involvement in recruiting “sham” candidates to run on the Green Party ticket is described below, today withdrew from a race for state office after reports surfaced that he pleaded guilty last year to a “super extreme DUI” charge. That DUI designation means May’s blood alcohol level was at least two-and-a-half times the legal limit.

Meanwhile, a judge ruled last week that the names of the candidates recruited by May could appear on ballots, despite the objections of the Green Party, which argued that the candidates do not represent Green Party values. As part of their evidence, the Green Party released records showing that Ben Pearcy, who is running for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission, switched his party affiliation from Republican to the Green Party the day before he filed to run for the ACC seat.

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Regular readers of The Phoenix Sun know how important the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has been to the growth of clean and renewable energy in this sun-drenched state. For example, under the leadership of outgoing chairwoman Kris Mayes (who is term-limited out this year), the ACC created one of the toughest Renewable Energy Standards (RES) in the country, calling on utilities to generate 15% of electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Despite negative stories about Arizona in the national news lately, the one area in which we continue to shine (pun intended) is in solar power. The nation looks to Arizona to see where the solar energy industry is heading and so far what these see is good — in large part thanks to the ACC.

Which makes today’s story in the New York Times about dirty politics in the race for seats on the ACC doubly worrisome.

Republican Runs Street People on Green Ticket” reads the headline. And the first of the alleged ringer-candidates is running for the ACC. His name is Ben Pearcy, a 20-year-old street musician who, according to the Times, described himself as the illegitimate son of a stripper and who has been homeless and had run-ins with the law on occasion.

My own view is that using the word “illegitimate” to describe someone whose parents weren’t married is itself illegitimate. Same goes for the low blow about his mother’s occupation. And having been homeless. In fact, most of what’s highlighted in Pearcy’s short bio plays into cruel and baseless stereotypes.

Which is exactly why some Democrats are crying foul.

“It’s unbelievable,” former Arizona Democratic state legislator Jackie Thrasher, says in the Times piece. “It’s not right. It’s deceitful.”

The idea is that by getting people who are, for whatever reason, unelectable, to run for office on the Green party ticket, environmentalists will split the Democratic vote — giving Republicans a better chance of winning the position for themselves.

The Republican “recruiter” is former state legislator Steve May. (May didn’t respond to an interview request left on his voicemail.)

Matt Roberts, communications director for the Arizona Republican Party, told the Sun that he hadn’t discussed the issue with May, but that there isn’t anything wrong with what May is doing.

“Who’s to say whether or not a person is qualified to run?” asked Roberts. “We encourage everybody to get involved in the political process.”

The likelihood of peeling off enough votes to throw an election one way or the other is much greater in low-profile races where voters generally don’t know the office people are seeking, let alone the candidates themselves.

Races, that is, like the one for the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Outgoing ACC chairwoman Mayes, a moderate Republican, had wanted to increase the state’s RES before leaving office. But time for such an effort appears to have run out. The new board may have trouble accomplishing that objective, especially if Republican candidate Brenda Burns is elected.

“There are people who want to increase (the RES),” Burns told the Sun in August. “I’m not one of them.”



Arizona Green Party v. Sham Candidates

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