Even if you’re a political junkie, it’s tough to get excited about the process of selecting people for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
But GOP leaders are doing their best to stir up some outrage about the list of finalists for the committee, which draws the lines of legislative and congressional districts every 10 years after the Census.
It’s an important job, because the results determine whether politicians represent districts that are competitive—or heavily weighted in favor of Republicans or Democrats. One big prize at stake: the future of Congressional District 8, which now has a slight Republican advantage but is represented by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords. A few more Democrats would help keep the district in Giffords’ hands; a few more Republicans, and it could end up with GOP representation.
The lines used to be drawn by state lawmakers, but voters created an Independent Redistricting Commission in 1998 with the aim of creating more competitive districts. Here’s how well it worked out when it was first used after the 2000 Census: Arizona ended up with fewer competitive legislative districts—and the maps ended up in courts for several years.
The process works like this: The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which has the job of submitting names to the governor for judicial appointments, also has the job of reviewing applicants for the Independent Redistricting Committee.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments sends 25 names to the speaker of the House, the House minority leader, the Senate president and the Senate minority leader. Each of them gets one pick for the Independent Redistricting Commission, and then the four members of the IRC appoint their fifth and final member.
Commissioners have to be spread far and wide across the state—no more than two can be from the same county—and there can only be two Democrats and two Republicans, with the fifth member being an independent.
That brings us to Senate President Russell Pearce and House Speaker Kirk Adams, who have their knickers in a knot over their list of possible choices for the commission.
The list of nominees that they got includes only one Republican from outside of Maricopa County: Benny White of Tucson.
That has Pearce and Adams crying foul, because they figure that they’ll be stuck picking White, since the Democrats’ first pick will probably be from Maricopa County.
Their complaints are puzzling, given that White is a fierce partisan who is more than qualified for the commission’s work. It may just be that Adams and Pearce want an appointee who they know will do their bidding.
Adams has taken up the cause of Michael Gleason, one of the Pima County applicants who didn’t make the final list. Adams has been complaining in the press this week that Gleeson didn’t make the final cut because one of the commissioners, Louis Araneta, said he was concerned about Gleason’s background in a Christian organization.
”I am shocked and alarmed that a commissioner of a constitutional commission, acting in an important constitutional proceeding, would openly oppose an applicant because his application appeared too religious,” Adams said in a press release earlier this week.
Given that Araneta—who has since resigned—had one vote out of 14 on the commission, the concerns about religious discrimination sound overblown to us.
But given that many GOP lawmakers are hostile toward the judiciary to begin with, there could be long-term damage to the bench over this incident. Look for budget cuts to the court system and a new push to elect judges (and to do away with the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments altogether) when the legislative session starts in January.
BTW: If you want to learn more about redistricting, the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition is showing a film that focuses on how the lines are drawn around the country. Gerrymandering shows at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 17, at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. There’s a suggested donation of $10, and you can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian Miller, an Air Force Reserve A-10 pilot, was elected chairman of the Pima County Republican Party last Saturday, Dec. 11.
Miller, who will be replacing Bob Westerman, made his political debut with an unsuccessful campaign for the GOP nomination in Congressional District 8, where he hoped to get a chance to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But he dropped out the primary a few weeks before the election and threw his support behind fellow Republican Jonathan Paton, a former lawmaker and lobbyist who ended up losing to Jesse Kelly.
Miller hails from the Ron Paul wing of the party—in general, he’s a get-the-government-out-of-our-lives kind of guy who opposes taxes, government involvement in health care and all of that. But he also wants to see the U.S. out of foreign entanglements in Afghanistan and Iraq, and favors immigration-reform efforts over building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But political philosophy is less important to the job than an ability to raise funds and support the GOP team during election season.
Tucsonan Bruce Ash, who now serves as a Republican national committeeman, wants the job of outgoing Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen.
The GOP certainly did well while Pullen was in charge: The party now controls every statewide office and holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Arizona Legislature. But to say that Pullen had much to do with that is kind of like saying that wet pavement causes rain.
Pullen’s reign at the top of the state party has been marked by ongoing battles with the congressional delegation—particularly U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, who declined to raise funds for the party. It’s also been marked by financial difficulties—which had a lot to do with McCain and Kyl’s refusal to raise said funds.
As we understand it, Ash is not the first choice of the delegation, which appears to be throwing its support behind Phoenix attorney Ronald Carmichael. Other names in the mix include former Paradise Valley mayor Vernon Parker and Pinal County chairman Marty Hermanson.
The race will be decided next month.
On the Democratic side, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens, a Phoenix attorney who has done a great job of raising funds but not at winning elections, is considering calling it quits, if he can find the right person to take over.
But so far, the only candidate scrambling to win the position is Rodney Glassman, the former Tucson City Council member who raised his statewide profile with his campaign against U.S. Sen. John McCain. Glassman is certainly a showman—who is likely to forget his “Sweet Home, Arizona” music video?—but Bivens doesn’t seem convinced that Rodney is the man to replace him.
Many party regulars are trying to convince Andrei Cherny, who raised more than $720,000 in his unsuccessful campaign for state treasurer, to jump into the race.
Cherny has demonstrated that he can raise big bucks, especially if he taps his connections to political bigshots like Bill Clinton and Al Gore. But so far, he’s been reluctant to commit to the race.
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