By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
Whatever the reasons, Freestone says that when he decided to drop out of the race, he talked to all of the Republican candidates.
"They all came by to talk," he says. "Phil MacDonnell, Mike Myer, Doug Wead, I talked to all of them. And, of course, they all asked what they could do to help, they all offered their support. I never expected anything from them.
"But when Wead came over to the house, the first words out of his mouth were, 'What can I do to help?' And I told him I could use a little help financially. He said he'd see what he could do. I was really surprised when he came through with the contributions."
Freestone vigorously denies he was "bought out" of the congressional race. He ticks off a laundry list of explanations for his disenchantment with a run against Wead.
"If I was bought out, wouldn't it make sense that I get the money before I dropped out?" he asks. "And I don't think I got enough if I was bought out. In a congressional race, where I was leading, I'd think it'll be worth more like $50,000 than $3,500."
Freestone says he and Wead have similar conservative philosophies, though Freestone is "more pragmatic" than the congressional candidate.
"Doug Wead is a fascinating, interesting guy," Freestone says. "He's so smart, he's just at another level than most of us. And he knows Washington and the way to get things done there."
Freestone says his abortive bid for Congress was "temporary insanity." After thinking about it, he didn't want to uproot his family and move to Washington, D.C. He says at the same time he was rethinking the District 6 race, he was approached by a group of 19 Republican state legislators who urged him to apply his "managerial skills" to the corporation commission. "I never made a formal announcement to run for Congress," he says. "It was an exploratory committee. We looked at it, and we decided that wasn't the race we wanted to make. This is. But the issue is not whether Tom Freestone should run for Congress. The issue is the performance of the corporation commission."
Nimbly changing subjects, Freestone takes aim at the commission.
"I think the corporation commission has played a shell game with Arizonans," he says. "When you look at the record, they have been part and parcel of driving our economy into the cellar. We have had nothing but problems in trying to get the corporation commission to work with us on enticing companies to locate here to handle expanding populations."
Jennings counters that the commission has had a hand in creating some 4,200 jobs since he was seated in 1985. And he disagrees that the commission's prime responsibility ought to be to aid the state's economic development.
"[Freestone] wants to make the corporation commission the engine of economic development," Jennings says. "But there's no shortage of people doing economic development. The commission's first responsibility is to the people of Arizona, the ratepayers--the consumers."
Jennings also rejects Freestone's charge that the commission is hostile to business. Under Jennings' chairmanship, the commission established the state's first economic-development rate plan, designed to attract industry to Arizona. The plan makes discounted utility rates available for a limited period of time to businesses locating in the state, provided they meet certain criteria:
First, the businesses must not have already decided to locate or expand in the state. Jennings says this is to ensure that the special rates serve as incentives, not as a "free lunch."
Second, the businesses must not be in direct competition with existing companies located in the state that would be paying the higher, standard rates.
Third, the economic development rates cannot be lower than the actual cost of service, causing other ratepayers to subsidize the new business.
Jennings says the corporation commission has had a hand in bringing at least 17 new companies to Arizona during his tenure, and points to the incentives as major factors in convincing Chase Bank and Bank of America to locate major credit-card processing centers in Phoenix.
At an October 1 debate before the Arizona Chamber of Commerce at Phoenix Country Club, Freestone accused Jennings of "trying to destroy business," citing the commission's denial of an electric rate discount application made by the Meredith/Burda printing plant in Casa Grande in 1988.
Jennings said the Meredith/Burda request was rejected because it failed to satisfy the criteria for the discount rates. Since the printing plant had been operating in the state for two years, he said, the discount rates would have amounted to a "free lunch." Though the company was considering adding a press to its existing facility, company officials now say the rejection of the discount rate was not the determining factor in their decision not to expand.
Jennings says the commission has approved 19 of the special rates since 1985, and that the Meredith/Burda request was one of only two the commission turned down. (In 1988 the commission denied a request for a $1.8 million rate break for a Rubbermaid plant near Goodyear because of a possible conflict of interest: The proposed plant site was owned by a company run by Nancy DeMichele, ex-wife of Arizona Public Service Company president Mark DeMichele.)