Corporation Commission: Kevin Thompson aims to reduce utility rates and reverse policymaking role

Kevin Thompson (Photo courtesy of the Kevin Thompson campaign)

Candidate name: Kevin Thompson
Political affiliation: Republican
Position sought: Corporation Commission
Age: 54
Career: Mesa City Council member; owner of Broadmore Consulting

Kevin Thompson’s role as a government liaison at Southwest Gas inspired him to run for local politics. He was elected to the Mesa City Council in 2014, where he will continue to serve until December.

Thompson at 19 joined the Air Force, and he was deployed to Iraq for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After the war, he lived at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada while on active duty.

During this time, Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Soon after, he made the move to Arizona and began a new position with Southwest Gas, where he worked for 17 years. Since 2015, he has owned Broadmore Consulting, which helps small businesses succeed through government relations services.

Thompson said he wants to use his experience to represent Arizonans to ensure consumers are protected and energy grids remain reliable.

Among its duties, the five-member Corporation Commission regulates electricity, water and gas providers, and approves the rates that consumers pay. More than 300 small and large water companies are under the commission’s jurisdiction.

Q: Why are you interested in this job?

With professional roots in the utility industry, Thompson said it made sense for him to run for a seat on the commission.

Thompson has teamed up with the other Republican in the race, Nick Myers, and he said the two combined have over 30 years of “actual boots on the ground, in the trenches,” both regulatory and with utility companies.

There are two open seats on the five-person commission, which was established by the Arizona Constitution. Of the three filled positions, two members are Republican and one is a Democrat.

Thompson said he wants to ensure Arizona doesn’t run into the same issues other states have faced, including blackouts and brownouts in California and elsewhere.

Q: What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you the best candidate?

Thompson said with 17 years of experience in the utility industry and eight years serving on the Mesa City Council, his expertise and practical experience make him an ideal candidate.

After working for Southwest Gas as an engineer, regional manager and finally in the government relations department, Thompson saw the good and bad of local politics and decided to run for the Mesa City Council.

“I wanted to learn as much as I could. … I wanted to really understand the consequences of the decisions I was making.”

Q: What are the major issues facing Arizona?

Thompson believes renewable energy mandates and subsidies for electric vehicles – he wants to eliminate them – along with water use are the biggest issues facing Arizona.

He said mandates and subsidies are driving up energy costs and the responsibility to choose the lowest costs and best forms of electricity should fall on the utility companies.

“It shouldn’t be the government telling them how to run their business, it should be up to them,” Thompson said, adding that the commission’s job should be “to determine whether or not that was prudent and reasonable.”

With the water crisis in Arizona, Thompson said he wants to ensure regulated water utilities are properly and adequately sourced.

He said regulation needs to occur from the time water is picked up from the source to the time it’s delivered. He plans to manage leakage and inaccuracies, such as bad meters, in the system that may be contributing to excess water waste by working with utility companies to make it easier to invest in water and see relief, which he says is a burdensome process.

“We need to work to make the system easier so that the smaller utilities are more likely to come in because we want them to invest in their utility, and we want to work with them to ensure that they’re reducing their water loss due to leakage since we are in a water crisis.”

Q: What will be your top priorities if elected?

To identify what causes utility rates to increase, and reversing or eliminating the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) rules, which require that regulated electric utilities must generate 15% of their energy from renewable resources by 2025.

“Instead of us forcing the utilities to go to renewables, let’s just allow the utilities to decide on their own. Let them manage their company, and let them decide what types of generation they’re going to bring to the table.”

Thompson said it’s essential to look at efficiencies at the commission, “making sure that we’re making it easier for the companies to do business with us, and we’d like to shift a lot of the legislative powers back to the Legislature where it belongs.”

REST rules and the Green New Deal concern all Arizonans, and Thompson believes such policies should be left up to state lawmakers. Thompson said he will ensure policymaking stays in the Legislature and the Corporation Commission sticks to regulating utilities.

“Right now, there’s five commissioners, and only three are needed for a majority. There’s no reason why three people should be setting energy policy for the entire state.”

Q: How will you work to improve bipartisanship in politics?

Thompson said he doesn’t believe politics are in play at the commission, but rather an ideology of different approaches between the political parties.

“I think we all want to ensure that we’re doing the right thing for Arizona, but Nick and I have a different philosophy of how we get there than our Democratic opponents.”

Q: Do you have any concerns regarding the security of our elections?

Thompson said there were some inaccuracies with the 2020 election but didn’t deny the results.

“I think there were enough inaccuracies that should require a deeper dive into all the counties to look at what happened and how to fix it so people are assured we have honest and fair elections going forward.”

Q: What is a personal challenge that you feel you need to overcome?

As a “solutions-oriented person,” he often rushes to find solutions without taking the time to relax and help the process along.

He also said he struggles with the constant feeling of having to say yes to everyone, and wants to learn new things but can never find the time.

Q: Do you support maintaining the current renewable energy mandates? Why or why not?

Thompson does not support requirements for renewable energy.

“It’s mandating that the utility companies go out and invest in those renewables, and I would rather allow the market to dictate that and allow technology to dictate that as well.”

He said with constantly changing technology, utilities shouldn’t be forced to invest in and sign long-term contracts for things that may be obsolete within a year.

Q: Please share a quote or advice that you live by.

“Always treat everybody with respect because you never know who your boss is going to be.”

Scianna Garcia(she/her/hers)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Scianna Garcia expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish. Garcia has interned at Times Media Group and Phoenix Magazine.