Arizona's Appellate Courts Commission on Appointments this morning sent a signal, loud and clear, to state GOP legislative leaders Russell Pearce and Kirk Adams that their intrusion into the process of compiling the list of eligible candidates for Redistricting Commissioner is unwelcome.
The Commission voted to reaffirm the inclusion of Arizona State Law Professor Paul Bender as one of the Independent candidates; voted against adding the names of Crystal Russell and Christopher Gleason to the list of Republican candidates and; voted to refuse to accept the resignation/withdrawal of Mark Schnepf and Stephen Sossaman from the list.
Public comments offered prior to discussion and voting on these issues echoed the 150+ pages of written comments received by the screening panel after the December 8th meeting at which the final list of eligible candidates was first approved. Many, if not most Republican, Democrat and Independent voters want this process to be as free from partisan interference as possible.
Pearce and Adams, along with the Republican religious group Center for Arizona Policy, had raised a stink about Tucsonan Christopher Gleason being excluded from the approved list of GOP candidates. They had claimed Gleason was excluded solely because of his Christian faith.
During discussion of the Gleason controversy this morning, Republican panel member Dewey Schade labeled those accusations "profoundly uninformed."
There is no question in my mind that Pearce and Adams had motives beyond what they explicitly stated for the fuss they raised. And at the meeting today, this blogger cited the report by Jim Nintzel at the Tucson Weekly website last night. Nintzel connected the dots between Gleason and Tea Party GOP Congressional nominee Jesse Kelly, who ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords in CD8. According to Gleason's application, he is a member of the special interest group Conservatives for Congress. Nintzel reported that the group was responsible for multiple "below-the-belt" hit pieces aimed at Giffords. He also said Gleason is working to establish a non-profit organization in Tucson to hire Kelly and allow him to campaign for another shot at Giffords.
That dubious connection presents a strong appearance of conflict of interest which should have, on its own, disqualified Gleason from consideration.
Nevertheless, for now, Gleason is out of the running, Pearce and Adams are probably stewing over the results of today's meeting and scheming the next steps in their effort to co-opt the Independent Redistricting Commission for the 2011 cycle.