Kris Mayes, a Republican, is the latest name to enter the race for the District 1 Congressional seat.
Congressman Rick Renzi is now facing a 35-count federal indictment alleging extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, insurance fraud, and conspiracy. Though he has pleaded not guilty and will not resign, Renzi has said he would not seek re-election in the fall 2008 election.
The Democratic field fueled by Congressional wins in the last elections is buzzing with a hive of candidates. Two candidates are already considering a Republican nod: Sydney Hay, a conservative and the mining association president who lost to Renzi in 2002, and Preston Korn, is a programmer who has a Flagstaff business in computer security.
Mayes, who grew up in Prescott, rose to the top of her class at Arizona State University in political science, was an intern to Rep. Bob Stump, became a journalist for the Arizona Republic and then was spokeswoman for Gov. Napolitano.
When an opening emerged on the Arizona Corporation Commission, Mayes was appointed to fill the post.
"I love my job," she says.
She would be required to resign the Corporation Commission post in order to formally announce a candidacy, so presently she has only formed an exploratory committee.
Monday, she spent time with officials in the Upper Verde Valley. She admitted that she is on a "selling" trip, but, she may already be practicing for a future role in Congress.
Mayes was attempting to convince Verde officials to woo manufacturing businesses who would cater to a growing alternative energy initiative in Arizona. She says such companies are already looking at the Phoenix metro area.
Mayes was a leader on the Corporation Commission's move to up the ante on the Renewable Energy Standard for the state. The RES requires public utilities to provide 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.
"A lot of companies looking to come to Arizona are actually German or Japanese companies looking to establish manufacturing jobs in the U.S. where renewable energy is going on.
"What is interesting about our renewable standard is that it has the most aggressive distributed generation requirement in the country. Our utilities will have to do more solar rooftops per capita than even California does," she said.
"I was talking to Margie [Beach] and the other Chamber folks about going after these companies. Northern Arizona should have just as clean a shot at getting those companies as Phoenix. Those are growth jobs. This is going to be the wave of the future when it comes to energy in this country."
Mayes believes the commission has been on the leading edge of water policy. "We have been passing a provision every time a water company comes in seeking to expand its service territory that says to the water company and the developers that they cannot use ground water for golf course or turfed areas."
The Commission regulates 350 small water companies throughout the state like the ones that Cottonwood and Clarkdale acquired to form the city utilities.
Why is she a good replacement for Rick Renzi? "I have been the kind of elected official who has been willing to take on special interests and who is willing to ask tough questions of powerful interests."
She recalls that the concept of the Corporation Commission was born here in Central Arizona. Morris Goldwater, a businessman who ran a shop on the square in Prescott, a mayor and Barry Goldwater's uncle, "had a vision that we needed a special branch of government to deal with Standard Oil, the big railroads, those type of monopolies. And today, those are the big utilities. He believed that Arizona needed a separate branch of government to look out for the interests of the consumer. "
She says, "That's why me."
Mayes cell phone in her bag on the floor plays a ringtone with a familiar song, "I didn't promise you a rose garden."
She smiles, "I thought that line was perfect for a regulator."