Thursday, December 8, 2011

Redistricting -- Dueling legislative rhetoric

Anticipating the possibility of having some verbal sparks fly today at the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's meeting, the Arizona Republic and the AP sent reporters and photographers to supplement usual coverage provided only to subscribers to the Capitol Times and readers of the Arizona Eagletarian.

Pursuant to the Arizona Constitution (which gives the legislature the prerogative to "make recommendations"*) Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs(hot) presented the Republican critique of the AIRC and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell presented the Minority Report.

Biggs(hot) was true to the "graciously impolite" characterization made by one observer familiar with his typical demeanor in the legislature. That is how he was described to me shortly after having had me thrown out of the first hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on Interfering with Independent Redistricting. You may recall that Biggs(hot) was offended when he read my lips while he was haranguing a citizen who dared to tell him the truth about his interference with the AIRC.

Biggs(hot) opened by praising AIRC staff for being professional and cooperative with him, but almost immediately took a cheap shot by doubting that the five commissioners had been given copies of the seven page House Memorial. That was not his only contradiction or cheap shot today. However, the fact that none of the commissioners called him on his bullshit accounts for the fact that there were no sparks that flew during this portion of today's meeting.

Biggs took a shot at the AIRC for having contracted with Harvard Professor Gary King to perform the racially polarized voting analysis. Shortly thereafter, he nonchalantly mentioned that the Senate GOP caucus had contracted with National Demographic Corp's Dr. Lisa Hadley to do similar analysis.

The senate GOP leader also presented his interpretation of the 2009 AZ Supreme Court opinion on prioritization of competitiveness in the list of six required redistricting criteria. Of course, his conclusion was that while competitiveness is mandatory, it is still last and lowest in priority. He emphasized that if there is ANY detriment to the other criteria, competitiveness must not be considered important.

Along the same line, Biggs argued for disregarding (or at least de-emphasizing) results of the 2010 election for calculating competitiveness, because of course, that Republicans having done so well was an obvious aberration. The net effect of doing so would be to only consider a district competitive if Republicans had a higher percentage of registered voters than Democrats.

Biggs also borrowed the rhetorical construct of such notable orators as Carl Seel, Don Shooter and Glenn Beck. He used the old, "isn't it interesting that..." when making the case that it was peculiar how, all of the sudden, two Congressmen just so happened to end up in the same draft CD. Of course, the gracious part of Biggs' graciously impolite schtick prevented him from specifically naming Colleen Mathis as the perpetrator of said travesty, even though that's who he was talking about.

Freeman and Stertz served Biggs up a few slow-pitch softballs before he was done. One such pitch, by Stertz was to get Biggs to provide his insight on "institutional memory." Stertz noted that in the CSPAN televised panel discussion on Arizona in the Front Lines of Politics, long-time Arizona lawmaker, Democrat Art Hamilton said he thought term limits were detrimental in public policy formation here. Biggs then claimed that changing district lines causes voter apathy. (Come on, nobody calls him on this bullshit?)

Stertz failed to mention that Hamilton specifically says, in that video, that he would prefer for all thirty of Arizona's legislative districts to be competitive. Yes, Hamilton DID say that.

The ultimate conclusion, from Biggs, was that the AIRC should start over from scratch to re-do the maps. Of course, there was NO OFFER of cooperation from Arizona's GOP dominated legislature for additional appropriations to cover the enormous cost overruns that would be unavoidable if the Commission were to take Biggs' suggestion seriously.

Democratic state Rep. Chad Campbell followed Biggs. Campbell, in contrast to Biggs' criticism of the AIRC, voiced his support for the process, emphasizing that he believes what state GOP lawmakers and the governor did is tantamount to abuse of power and said he believes it borders on gross misconduct in office.

Campbell made another salient point about the fact that the House GOP has spent taxpayer funds to influence the redistricting process, including sending a staffer to every AIRC meeting. He did not name names, but he was clearly referring to John Mills.

The one criticism Campbell offered was that the draft maps, when compared to voter registration numbers in Arizona, still improperly favor Republicans.

There is more that needs to be written about Wednesday's meeting, but I need to shut it down for the night. The IRC starts up again at 11am (Thursday, December 8) and I have to run an errand or two before hand.

Over the next two days, I expect significant discussion of proposed changes to the draft maps. Files related to those proposed changes can be accessed here. If you follow along on the live stream, the KMZ files open in Google Earth, and the change reports are in the pdf files.

I also plan to explore the issue of Stertz and Freeman using the expression "hyper-packing of Republicans." That came up when commissioners were asking questions of Campbell. Stertz and Freeman were trying to get him to admit that competitive districts were unfeasible unless Republican voters were hyper-packed in some districts because Voting Rights Act considerations put so many Democratic voters in certain other districts.

McNulty called Stertz on use of that term, getting him to say that he felt hyper-packing would be to make a district 97 percent Republican. Of course, NOBODY has proposed doing anything of the sort. Bravo to Linda McNulty for addressing the issue. However, it's likely to come up again. I do not expect Stertz to give up on his use of what one reader of this blog suggested is a Frank Luntz** type expression.

This issue deserves more discussion and I hope to do so by the upcoming weekend.


*Arizona Constitution Article 4, Part 2, Section 1 (subsection 16, emphasis mine)
(16) The independent redistricting commission shall advertise a draft map of congressional districts and a draft map of legislative districts to the public for comment, which comment shall be taken for at least thirty days. Either or both bodies of the legislature may act within this period to make recommendations to the independent redistricting commission by memorial or by minority report, which recommendations shall be considered by the independent redistricting commission. The independent redistricting commission shall then establish final district boundaries.

** Luntz's specialty is “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate." 

1 comment:

  1. Good description of what went on at the IRC meeting yesterday.