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Mayes determines Hobbs can pick majority of Clean Elections Commission

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said Friday that it’s Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ turn to appoint a new commissioner to oversee and administer Arizona’s Clean Elections Act.

Hobbs picked the last new commissioner in 2017, but back then, she was the secretary of state and the highest-ranking Democrat in Arizona state government. 

Now that Hobbs is governor, Republican State Treasurer Kimberly Yee argued it’s her turn to pick next because she’s the highest-ranking Republican in statewide office. 

But according to Mayes, Hobbs gets to pick again specifically because she’s governor, and state law requires the alternating sequence of appointments to always include the governor. Mayes also determined that, based on the alternating appointment process, Hobbs is entitled to appoint three of the five commissioners, and Yee is entitled to appoint two.

Hobbs and Yee requested the opinion from Mayes, a Democrat, on Dec. 28 about which of them gets to appoint more new members to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission by Feb. 1, when new terms are scheduled to begin in accordance with state law.

The nonpartisan five-member commission currently consists of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent. By law, no more than two members can be from the same political party.

That means having a third and final choice of appointments crucial — an independent appointed by a Republican could, for example, attempt to sway the commission in favor of GOP priorities.

In a statement, Yee said that while she disagrees with Mayes opinion, “we will not be challenging it because it would not be a good use of taxpayer dollars.” 

“This does not preclude a private citizen interested in the Commission from challenging it,” she added.

A ballot measure intended to expose “dark money” was overwhelmingly approved by voters last year as Proposition 211. It requires much more transparency about who donates to candidates’ campaigns, and was largely opposed by Republicans, who unsuccessfully sued to block the measure after it was approved. 

The Citizens Clean Election Commission was also established through a ballot measure in 1998.  It is responsible for enforcing the transparency requirements approved as part of Prop. 211.

Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.