Originally published Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 05:53a.m.

KINGMAN – Two candidates running for Arizona Corporation Commission gave their reasons for why they would be the best choice to oversee the utility regulatory body at Wednesday’s Mohave Republican Forum.

ACC commissioners are as much responsible for making the country great as the “guy with the red hair in the White House,” candidate Jim O’Connor said.

“I’m a big limited-government guy, and that applies to the ACC,” the former investment executive from California said. “We are the judges over the rates charged by companies that are essentially monopolies for electricity, gas and water.”

In particular, it was water rate increases of 30 percent, 40 percent and even 50 percent in some Arizona districts that got O’Connor’s attention to run for the ACC, he said.

He has no political ambitions.

“I’m 72 and I plan to serve one four-year term. If someone sees me up here in four years, throw some cold water on me. My wife would appreciate it,” he told about 25 people attending the monthly forum at Golden Corral restaurant.

A lot of people are questioning the integrity of the ACC board following those water hikes. The commissioners are all Republicans, so you can’t blame this one on Democrats, O’Connor added.

His campaign platform is to protect utility customers; crack down on financial crime; fight unsound regulations; restore public trust in the ACC; and uphold the Arizona Constitution.

O’Connor worked 42 years in finance, responsible for regulatory compliance and investment portfolio management, and never had a single complaint or violation from the Securities Exchange Commission.

He said it’s sad that the ACC voted recently to adopt a 350-page code of ethics that took a full year to write.

“We need 350 pages to explain to public servants how to be ethical,” O’Connor said. “God gave that to us when we were born. It’s called common sense.”

Neil DeSanto, an Arizona native who lived for four years in Bullhead City, said he wants to modernize the ACC and protect Arizona’s future by making sure the state has safe, reliable and affordable utility service.

“I want to help the next generation of entrepreneurs to achieve the dream of starting their own business,” he said.

DeSanto said he’s attended a few ACC meetings and has a “good idea” of what’s going on.

“I’m not going to agree with decisions they made,” he said. “Yes, I’m a new name. You don’t know a lot about me, but I can tell you one thing, I’m not intimidated. These utilities are not going to intimidate me. I’m in touch with the hard-working people of Arizona.”

DeSanto said he was in the bar and restaurant business, and he’s made a little money on every business he sold. That’s because he knows how to negotiate, something the ACC commissioners need to learn.

“These big utilities tell you what it’s going to be and you have to be satisfied with it. I’m not that way. I’m a negotiator. I even negotiate the price of haircut, but not this one,” he said.

DeSanto said he wasn’t given a petition by the Secretary of State’s office to run for office, nor was he given a reason, but voters can write him onto the ballot and their vote will count.