GOP Options

Republicans choose between two candidates each in the races for Pima County Sheriff and Arizona Corporation Commission

In one Sept. 7 Republican primary, it's winner-take-all for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission. In the other, it's the exact opposite: The winner gets the chance to run as a longshot against a political institution.

That institution: Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, and Michael Steber and Roland Youngling want the opportunity to face him in the November election.

The 51-year old Youngling retired in 2003 after a 26-year career with the Sheriff's Department. He rose through the ranks from patrol officer, to detective, to sergeant.

Steber has been employed as a corrections officer with the department for the past five years. Prior to that, he worked for the Arizona Department of Corrections and as a team leader on community projects for Target stores.

"Pima County is not really a safe place to be, and I'm running because I want my family to be safe," the 34-year-old Steber explains. "What we're doing isn't working. The only way to get crime under control is to get the public involved."

There are other reasons for Steber's candidacy. He criticizes Dupnik's failure to aggressively pursue federal grants and a department top-heavy with administrators.

Youngling agrees with that assessment, stating that 77 of the 468 officers in the department are "bosses."

"These bosses create bottlenecks so things get squeezed in communication," he says. In Youngling's opinion, this leads to frustration and lower morale, which results in experienced people leaving the department.

Another reason Youngling gives for running is Dupnik's long tenure in office. "Political dynasties are not good for democracy," he says. "Complacency sets in, and the community has changed. We need someone who knows the community."

If elected, Youngling would focus on retaining officers by improving their pay. But that, he says, doesn't necessarily mean an increase in the department's budget. "I think we could increase (salaries) by cutting waste," he suggests.

Steber, calling himself fiscally responsible, adds that the agency needs more officers, and to pay for them, he would make cuts that start at the top. Another way Steber proposes to save money is to put jail inmates to work on cleaning washes.

Steber thinks Republicans should vote for him, because he will pursue additional federal grant money and will increase community involvement in law-enforcement. "My opponent only wants to tweak the status quo," he says.

For his part, Youngling cites his law enforcement experience as the reason people should support him. "I've been a cop," he emphasizes. "I know how to lead."

Experience is just one factor in another Republican primary. The race for a Corporation Commission seat between Kris Mayes and Carl Seel also involves questions of party loyalty and differing views on how to meet Arizona's future energy needs.

The 32-year-old Mayes was appointed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to the commission 10 months ago to fill a vacant seat. Prior to that, she was a newspaper reporter in Phoenix and Napolitano's press secretary.

Seel, 35 years old and employed in advertising, says he got involved in the race because he wanted to take a more active role in politics, and because several Republican party leaders asked him to.

Heavily involved with addressing the gasoline pipeline break in Tucson last year, Mayes has serious concerns about the supply of both gasoline and natural gas for the state. She believes an additional pipeline for each should be installed in the next few years and favors accounting incentives to encourage companies to accomplish that.

"We need to look at our electrical, water and other utilities, to ensure reliability," Seel says. While he thinks electrical power generation is OK for now, he agrees with Mayes that energy planning should be done today to sustain future growth.

To help meet that increasing demand for power, one step Mayes and the Corporation Commission have taken is to raise the requirement for alternative sources of electricity from .8 to 1.1 percent. Sixty percent of that amount must come from solar energy.

Mayes indicates that during the next 20 years, she'd like to see the alternative power requirement become 10 percent. "There is no reason Arizona shouldn't be the solar capital of the world," she says.

Seel is sharply critical of the mandate, since the higher-priced alternative power is paid for through what he calls "hidden taxes," such as the small "Environmental Portfolio Surcharge" included on electrical bills. Though a proponent of alternative energy, Seel says he prefers to encourage its use through the marketplace.

"We should allow the consumer to buy (electricity) off the shelf," Seel says; he believes supply companies could offer their customers power generated in different ways at different rates. If that were done, he thinks the demand for alternate energy would explode, and the competition would drive the price of all types of electricity down.

Another proposal Seel has made is one that he calls "a little controversial": He supports evaluating the possibility of additional nuclear generation at the Palo Verde plant west of Phoenix.

Seel lists his Republican credentials as a precinct committeeman and as a loyal supporter of party candidates as the reason people should vote for him. He accuses Mayes of writing articles that attacked Republicans when she was a newspaper reporter. He also believes some of her big-name supporters have conflicts of interest, since they are energy lobbyists.

Mayes thinks people should vote for her for several reasons. "I've done a good job and I'm passionate about these issues," she says. "I've dealt with pipeline safety and rate setting, and there is a lot of work to do."

Asked why people should care about this race, Mayes replies, "The Corporation Commission affects every person in Arizona every day. Much of what it will do over the next 10 years will set the stage (for the state) in the future. It's important to have quality commissioners."