Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Redistricting -- GOP angst and bully pulpits

A couple of days ago, I shared my reflections on the coordinated flurry of angry press releases sent out by Arizona's high level GOP office holders. To some, it may seem as if I did not take seriously the concern raised in those angry missives. On the contrary, it is important to put them in proper perspective.

After all, each officeholder, especially the governor, has an inherent bully pulpit.

What I like about the wikipedia definition (linked above) is the original meaning of the term as coined by Teddy Roosevelt, then contrasting it with how some use it now.
Due to the archaic nature of the adjective "bully" and the religious symbolism of the word pulpit (the elevated platform used by a preacher), this phrase is often misunderstood as a pejorative. This misinterpretation implies intimidation and, possibly, an abuse of authority.  
Of course, for Gov. Brewer to threaten to remove any of the current redistricting commissioners for adopting a Congressional Draft map she claims is a giveaway to Arizona Democrats cannot be construed as abuse of authority. Can it?

Lest anyone think I'm overreacting, the crack news team at the Arizona Capitol Times (from the Oct 6 Yellow Sheet Report) posed probing questions to Matt Benson, Brewer's spokesman.

After noting that “allegations have been rampant” about the IRC’s misconduct throughout the process, Brewer said the commission “is bent on awarding to the Democratic Party control of congressional districts” it couldn’t otherwise win. “This is nothing less than neglect of duty and gross misconduct,” the governor said in the statement. For observers steeped in IRC process, those words resonated deeply because they were ripped from the Prop 106 language that created the IRC. The Constitution, in Article IV Part 2 Section 1 (10), allows the governor to initiate the commissioner removal process “for substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office or inability to discharge the duties of office.” Gubernatorial spokesman Matthew Benson yesterday acknowledged the choice of words was intentional and said Brewer was considering removing commissioners. “The governor’s keeping her options on the table at this point. She remains hopeful and optimistic that the commission can make major revisions to this map,” he said. If changes aren’t made to satisfy GOP concerns, Benson said the governor would likely consider beginning the removal process. (In order for a commissioner to be removed, Brewer must serve him or her with written notice and the commissioner is given an opportunity to respond, then the Senate must back the removal with a two-thirds majority.) While some railbirds chalked up Brewer’s invocation of the removal
procedures as a scare tactic, one Republican source with some knowledge of the situation said the threat may be more than saber-rattling. “I think they’re further along with the idea than they’re letting on,” said the source, who added that, while Brewer dismissed removing Mathis months ago, she and her staff have “given it far more consideration in the past 48 hours.” But one Republican legislative source questioned what the practical effect of removing Mathis would be, given that consultants have been hired and draft maps are likely to be approved before any removal. Plus, the Constitution requires the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments to nominate three replacement candidates. Given the need for finding a
replacement quickly, the source reckoned the Appellate Court panel would merely forward three of the names from the original five. With Ray Bladine the current exec director for the IRC, that leaves Paul Bender, Kimber Lanning and Margarita Silva. “I don’t know that any of those are good choices for us,” the legislative source said. “From a technical standpoint, I think the removal could be done. From a realistic standpoint, I doubt anything will happen.”
From my perspective, this underscores the difficulty in removing partisan political influence from the process. Several people have suggested that if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak (a Republican leaning Independent holding the chairmanship at this time) the Democrats would be doing the same thing. In Arizona, it's very difficult to imagine that scenario. In a state where Democrats dominate state politics, perhaps, but not Arizona. Regardless, Brewer's threat can be taken as nothing less than a partisan attempt to subvert the process Arizona voters took away from the state legislature in 2000.

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts posted a blog mid-week with the headline Republicans just got screwed. In my view, it was a classic example of putting the mouth (or typing fingers) in motion before putting the brain in gear. After someone pointed out an error or two in the post, she rewrote it, but kept to the main theme, and reached the same conclusion -- approving the bad behavior of Arizona Republicans.

In contrast, the Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff) put more appropriate perspective on the situation for readers.

     It seems almost laughable that state Republican leaders are complaining that a draft House map gives the party "only" four sure seats of nine in Congress.
     This is the party that has seen its share of registered voters sink by more than 7 percentage points in the last decade to 36 percent. Based on that number alone, four solid seats seems more than fair.
     And to call the map "thievery" because it gives Democrats two sure seats borders on the absurd -- Democrats have a 31 percent voter registration and already have three representatives from Arizona in Congress.


Would it be at all unreasonable to expect, at minimum, for mainstream newspapers and broadcast media to stop writing about the DRAFT maps as if they are already set in stone? Good freakin' grief people, we've got an entire second round of public hearings to go through. Freeman is on record as expecting Arizona citizens to "show us the error of our ways" in those hearings. Mathis has given several clues indicating the commission will make substantive changes to the draft maps subsequent to the hearings. Mathis' indications have reflected on the need for public testimony, not to react to Brewer's petty threats.

So, what's behind the hyperbolic expressions of angst? Well, could it be UNfair Trust?

Yesterday, Arizona Democratic Party Exec. Dir. Luis Heredia filed a records request with the Attorney General and said this:
The AZGOP’s over-the-top, coordinated attack this week over redistricting is the strongest evidence yet that the public deserves to be informed of the underlying political motives in Attorney General Tom Horne’s partisan investigation of this independent commission. Today, we have filed this public-records request to the Attorney General’s Office.
At the end of yesterday's AIRC meeting, UNfair Trust lackey Mike Liburdi took the mic during the Call to the Public and said (his clandestine lobbying group) filed a records request with the AIRC demanding they provide all documents and data -- "FORTHWITH" -- that they have used for calculating competitiveness of districts up to this point. How that "demand" could be taken as anything other than just another step in a pissing contest is currently beyond my understanding.

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Anyone paying attention to redistricting in Arizona this year has seen -- from the beginning -- that the GOP has been chomping at the bit to interfere with the process. Colleen Mathis was selected for the chairmanship on March 1.

Well before that, Russell Pearce and Kirk Adams, who would have been in charge of the entire process if not for the INDEPENDENT commission, were worried that "notoriously Liberal" ASU Law prof. Paul Bender would be selected to be chair. In December, they filed a Special Action in Arizona Supreme Court trying to get Bender removed from the eligibility list.

Therefore, anyone still believing the controversy is really about the decisions and actions of Colleen Mathis fails to consider the entire history of this year's commission.

Knowing that the chairman of the AIRC, as it is currently structured, is one person on whom the entire success or failure of the process revolves makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Apart from examining the history of the 2011 commission, ideas and discussions have already surfaced on ways to "fix" it. Of course, there's still people like Proud Terri in Tucson, who have advocated publicly for returning the responsibility to the legislature.

Other state lawmakers recognize Arizona's voters will be extremely reluctant to re-empower the legislature to choose their own voters. Previously, I tweeted that state Rep. John Kavanagh mentioned yesterday that he'd like to see the commission expanded to include three Democrats, three Republicans and three Independents.  I told him I liked that idea. Later, Senate Minority Leader David Schapira told me he had mentioned the idea to Kavanagh last week. I didn't get a chance to ask Kavanagh whether he was taking credit for someone else's idea, but that's not a big deal in my view.

For much of the last decade, in order for any Democratic idea to get through the Arizona Legislature, the best way was to sell it to a Republican to sponsor a bill. I use the word "sell" figuratively here.

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As I write this, the AIRC continues deliberation hoping to finish a legislative draft map as soon as possible.

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The second round of public hearings, with MORE opportunities for citizens input -- throughout the state -- than in the first round, kicks off on Tuesday (October 11) at 6:00pm at Phoenix College's auditorium, 1202 W. Thomas Rd, Phoenix. The entire schedule for the second round is now posted on the AIRC website.

2 comments:

  1. Steve,

    As I mentioned in my post, The Quest To Protect The Republican Super Majority, I to posited on expanding the AIRC to 3 Dems, 3 Reps and 3 Independents. I think the voters would approve this tweaking of the AIRC.

    ReplyDelete