PHOENIX – When experts finally determine what decided the race for Arizona Corporation Commission, it could come down to a stronger message, commercials, funding and strategy.
But no one is arguing this point: It doesn’t hurt to be a Kennedy, or to be named Paul Newman.
“When a major actor dies who shares the same first and last name as you, of course you will have an advantage in the election,” said state Rep. Marian McClure, R-Tucson, who was running last among six candidates for three seats on the commission.
She was speaking of the other Paul Newman, the Cochise County supervisor who, along with fellow Democrat Sandra Kennedy, was comfortably ahead of the pack and already planning for his term on the Corporation Commission.
“Many Arizona voters think Sandra Kennedy is a part of the presidential Kennedy family; in actuality, she is no relation,” McClure said late last week.
Sandra Kennedy said she found it comical for McClure to suggest that sharing a last name with a political dynasty put her ahead in the race.
“I served in the Legislature for 12 years and have been around this state, and people know who I am and what I am capable of,” Kennedy said.
Paul Newman acknowledged the benefits of his name but said that isn’t the only reason for his success.
“I have done a lot over the years in Arizona, and people recognize me as an able and experienced government leader,” Newman said.
Newman said he spent more $1 million on advertisements during his political career, which should have helped the public differentiate him from the actor.
Nick Dranias, director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the conservative Goldwater Institute, said the candidates’ names influenced the outcome.
“When you see the names Kennedy and Paul Newman on a few thousand signs, you’re going to get some votes,” Dranias said.
William J. Dixon, a professor and head of the University of Arizona’s political science department, said the packaging of the Democrats’ names played a major role.
“The Democrats, including Kennedy and Newman, got a lot more bang for their buck since they took their names and presented it in one package,” Dixon said.
Another familiar name in the race belongs to state Rep. Bob Stump, R-Peoria. Bob Stump was a longtime Republican congressman from Arizona; the Corporation Commission candidate is no relation.
Stump trailed Democrat Sam George by a mere 900 votes Thursday for the third seat open on the commission as counties continued tallying tens of thousands of ballots remaining from election day. Most of those ballots were in Maricopa County, where Stump outpolled George.
Stump didn’t return phone messages but sent an e-mail saying, “I’m confident that outstanding ballots in Maricopa County and elsewhere will lead me to victory, and I’m very grateful to Arizonans for the opportunity to serve.”
Republican Barry Wong was about 22,000 votes out of third place, and McClure was 32,000 votes out.
The winners will replace William Mundell, Lowell S. “Mike” Gleason and Jeff Hatch-Miller, all Republicans, on the five-member commission. Continuing on the commission are Republicans Kristin Mayes and Gary Pierce.
ACC VOTE TOTALS
Here are vote totals in the Arizona Corporation Commission race as of Thursday evening. The candidates are vying for three open seats:
By Andrew J. Shainker, Mike Martinez