Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Redistricting -- How the Arizona Republic editorial board got it wrong

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is currently enjoying a lull in the raucousness and rancor experienced from June through the end of November. Yet, there remains an unresolved undercurrent of discontent that is likely to play out in litigation that will likely begin as soon as final maps are adopted.

Attorneys for the UNfair Trust, a coalition of Arizona's GOP Congressional delegation and state legislative leadership (also just GOP), has been conspicuously absent from AIRC meetings since they resumed after the Supreme Court reinstated Mathis to the chair. And other than for the first hour of the first meeting last week, Tea Party presence has been nearly non-existent. No Wes Harris or others from his Original North Phoenix Tea Party. No Lynne St. Angelo or others from SmartGirlPolitics, Saddlebrook Ranch, Oro Valley or Marana. 

Nothing that the AIRC does or has done has materially changed since the Court spanked Jan Brewer and the state senate. No rulings have been handed down from the litigation in Maricopa County Superior Court (you know, Tom Horne's witch hunt over alleged vote trading and holding meetings in secret).

Would we be naive to expect that the absence of these people and groups, with their attendant cacophony suggests there will be smooth sailing from hence forth? 

When will the other shoe drop? It's hard to say. But one aspect of the situation that remains unresolved is the role of the media over the last six months. Only during the most sexy or controversial moments has the Republic, the AP or Capitol Media Services (Howie Fischer) covered the AIRC. Community newspapers thoughout the state rely on either the AP or Capitol Media Services for news stories about the process. But the editorial boards of the Republic and other Arizona papers have still opined regularly about the controversies, often showing naivete and bias against the independent process. 

The Payson Roundup gave voice to the Tea Partiers. Another eastern Arizona paper, edited by a Birther/Tea Partier, is a staunch supporter of LD 5 state lawmakers Sylvia Allen, Brenda Barton and Chester Crandall. Those lawmakers put substantial effort into subverting the independent process. 

Some papers, like in Flagstaff, clearly supported the process (even when criticizing the IRC for a major goof in scheduling for the first round of hearings). 

Then there is the Arizona Republic. Its editorial board completely ignored the role of UNfair Trust in its attempt to subvert the process. At the same time, the Republic blamed IRC chair Mathis for the controversy, projecting an aura of pandering to GOP activists and Tea Party groups.  

If the editorial board of Arizona's "newspaper of record" had balls, it would own up to its failure. One Republic columnist was quoted in Brewer's pleadings before the Supreme Court, as justification for removing Mathis. So, last week, when it ran an editorial which, for a second time, invoked the fallacy of false equivalence, I wrote a letter to the editor and sent it to them, the text of which follows.

The Arizona Republic and several members of its editorial staff have written several times, most recently in "A necessary dose of sanity" (Dec 2) that "[Colleen Coyle] Mathis, the independent chairwoman, has at times needlessly antagonized Republicans by refusing the GOP commissioners their own choice of attorneys..."

Even minimal reading of comments to these articles (and the vociferous complaints lodged by foes of independent redistricting) finds many who have taken those words to justify branding Mathis a "’so-called’ Independent.”

Lisa Hauser, the GOP commissioners' choice of attorney (back in the Spring) advised the governor on Mathis’ removal and wrote Brewer’s Supreme Court pleadings in the case recently heard by the Arizona Supreme Court. Hauser’s central argument was that the intent of the drafters and voters on Prop 106 is irrelevant. The case law was clearly contrary to Hauser’s advice.

Given the level of partisan pressure that has been aimed at Mathis since her appointment, she has demonstrated an unprecedented degree of independence. The Arizona Republic's editorial board should recognize her for it, rather than blame her for the last year's worth of partisan rancor -- which clearly and emphatically has originated from the conservative side of the political spectrum.

On December 2nd, I sent the letter posted above to the Republic. I have heard nothing from them on whether they intend to ever run it.


To get an idea of the latest talk from TP people, check out the Arizona Freedom Alliance's website/group. 


  1. Great letter to the Republic. Thanks for your coverage!

  2. Steve,

    Don't hold your breath. I wrote a Letter to the Editor as well, which became the basis for my November 25th posting. The Republic isn't going to print letters that use facts to disprove their tilted point of view. They are a willing ally of those who hate the fact the voters want competitive districts created by an independent panel of volunteers.

    In my view, the Republic is just as culpable as unFAIR Trust and the "tea party" minions.

  3. I take a long view. Over the past decade, I've written probably over 200 letters to the Arizona Republic and almost as many to USA Today.

    I generally write cogently and can be concise, and I've had about 15 published in the Republic and about 5 in USA Today.

    The key to getting published is not to get discouraged if you think you wrote a great letter and they don't publish it. It's to keep writing them letters.