Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Redistricting -- how final is "tentatively final?"

After the final vote last night by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, to approve the legislative map for the next step (Voting Rights analysis), an enormous sense of relief and finality swept over the members, staff and some of the diehard followers. While I share the relief and commend the Commission, perception of having reached the goal still eludes me.

Until "the 99 percent" have the ability to wrest control, for every state in the Union, of the redistricting process from the hands of parochial interests, I will not be satisfied. Today Arizona voters reached an important milestone. But we are still FAR from the goal.

Because of the significance of this moment, coverage by corporate media was more extensive. I intend not to duplicate their efforts. As far as they go, their coverage will help you get the picture on where we are now and what the next step may entail. But as you know, I am interested in uncovering what is beneath the surface. That is no less true today than it has been over the last year.

So, what can I tell you about the last couple of days at the AIRC?

Last Friday, during the cantankerous deliber-ations over the new CD 9, with Stertz calling in from Tucson, Freeman began getting serious about his complaints that this district split HIS community of interest. That evening, as Capitol Times reporter Jeremy Duda tweeted,
This sounds ominous: Stertz says "we will have a lively discussion" about Mathis' proposed CD combo map at Monday's #AIRCmeeting.
Well, the subject did not come up at all on Monday. Deliberations focused that day on the legislative map. It did come up yesterday.

Freeman's again cited two major concerns. He was clear and emphatic that he did not like HIS community of interest being split. And that is what he believes the new, competitive CD 9 does. His other concern is that the maps should have been developed solely on the basis of equal population, compactness and natural boundaries. That is, without any consideration at all for the political consequences of any of the lines or districts. More than once, he said he believes justification for districts was written after the lines were drawn.

Stertz' contributed to the lively discussion but also ended up helping bring it all to a vote.

Several times early in the meeting on Tuesday, Stertz tried to get someone (other commissioners) to go on record to state some (potentially illicit?) rationale for putting Marana, Oro Valley and Saddlebrook in the sprawling rural CD1. He said (several times) that he believed the people from those communities had been "pulled out of Tucson" even though they want to be in a Congressional district with urban Tucson. Today, Blog for Arizona's AZ Blue Meanie rebutted that claim.

Nevertheless, McNulty eventually responded saying that nobody was "pulled out" of anything and that all we are doing is establishing lines for balanced districts.

Stertz' final argument on that specific point came in pointing out that there are roughly 300K voters in the Marana, Oro Valley and Saddlebrook communities and that while Flagstaff has been the "hub" for CD1 over the last decade, that is likely to change with this map.

Nobody jumped on his bandwagon right away (or in public comments anytime yesterday). During breaks I asked a couple of people interested in the maps from a Flagstaff perspective what they thought about that particular point. Nobody seemed to think it was significant. But one person mentioned to me that Stertz' likely had an ulterior motive for his push to include those NW Tucson communities in CD2.

Supposedly, the idea was to facilitate former Republican Congressional candidate Jesse Kelly having a rematch with Gabby Giffords in 2012. Indeed, Kelly's address near Marana, as listed at puts him in CD1. The change Stertz wanted would have shifted that address to CD2. That's as far as that notion goes.

When I mentioned the scenario to Stertz, he quickly shot it down by informing me that the 2010 tea party candidate had moved to Texas. A freelance reporter covering yesterday's meeting for southern Arizona newspapers told me he had heard (previously) that Kelly did move to Texas. Stertz said the reason for the move was that there had been threats on Kelly's life. Threats that, according to Stertz, the FBI considered credible.

This leads me to my next point, still about Stertz. Besides a comment or two that readers have either posted or emailed to me (and that I've quoted) about him, he had a significant and important role to play in the entire scheme of things this year. Clearly, his application (to become a redistricting commissioner) contained false statements. The Arizona Democratic Party, at one point filed a complaint with the Attorney General and two county attorneys over those misrepresentations. Nothing came of that complaint and ultimately, nothing but huge legal service bills came out of the tea party complaints over Colleen Mathis' application.

A discussion of Stertz' role is significant for a couple of reasons. First, the dynamics of the open deliberations are worthy of examination. Second, a look at the impact of the outside activity (i.e. disclosure to the Attorney General in response to the investigative demands) on the timeline, litigation and other interactions of the AIRC could be instructive.

From one angle, both Stertz and Mathis have been viewed as polarizing figures in this year long melodrama. But are either one of them really all that polarizing? I don't think so. Both brought their bottom-line genuine selves to the process. [note: I hope to more extensively interview and explore the roles of all five AIRC members in development of my book. I plan to write it about Arizona's experience with this year's independent redistricting.]

The most obvious comparison and contrast between the 2011 AIRC and that from ten years ago is in the openness with which this Commission conducted its business. The irony is incredibly thick, given all of the hubbub over allegations of violations of the Open Meeting Law.

But I digress.

Anyway, yesterday in a move consistent with a statement he made last week, Stertz said that out of respect for Commissioners McNulty and Herrera, he would not oppose the Maricopa County competitive CD9, though he did have changes he wanted otherwise. When he recognized and openly acknowledged he was not going to win any more concessions, he again suggested they not waste any more time and get the motion made and vote taken.

Howie Fischer, ever the one to stir things up, did his best to stoke controversy with his write up. Fischer wrote:

Stertz read a letter from the Oro Valley Town Council saying it feared the town's 41,000 residents would get little or no attention from a Congress member who also has to represent that vast rural district.
Not that Fischer's story is inaccurate, as Stertz did read said letter. BUT Fischer's drive-by reporting apparently missed the part where Stertz tried to scare northern Arizona citizens by saying the 300,000 people in the NW Tucson suburbs could possibly elect someone in that district. His story is blatantly misleading but I doubt it was intentionally so. 

Other stories on yesterday's meeting mentioned the 3-2 vote on both maps and that the three and the two were different on each vote. But WHY was the vote different?

Freeman voted no on both. Mathis and McNulty voted yes on both. Stertz voted no on the Congressional map but ended up being the tiebreaker in favor of advancing the legislative map. Herrera vote yes on the Congressional map but no on the legislative.  So, the Congressional map 3-2 vote was consistent with the voting pattern since last spring.

The legislative map, as approved yesterday, presents (arguably) 16 solid Republican districts, 10 solid Democratic districts and 4 competitive districts. However, I'm not ready to argue that one. Based solely on a comparison of the number of Democratic and Republican voters in each district, only two LDs give a solid appearance at being competitive. But that is a very limited measure that does not give a fair picture of the likely performance of a given district.

The potential hold up last night was that Herrera wanted one more competitive legislative district. Tons of drama, for not necessarily much substance. As much as Freeman wanted to play the victim, and Stertz just wanted to play (until it really was apparent that taking more time would not produce any different result), the two did a good job of making Herrera look like the bad guy. McNulty and Mathis did not help Herrera out in that regard, at all.

Herrera's biggest problem yesterday was that he was swimming upstream. Perhaps he can relate more now to Democratic 2001 AIRC member Andi Minkoff's testimony last June. She expressed her frustration from the previous decade's redistricting effort in trying to establish competitive districts.

As always, I have plenty more to write about this process and will do so in time. But we can reasonably expect to read about -- in the corporate media -- all the hypothetical match ups between Republicans and Democrats and which incumbents will be "blessed" to have to face each other in order to keep a seat. I'll keep my ear to the ground and let you know of significant developments as I learn of them.

1 comment:

  1. Steve,

    Thanks for your efforts in keeping us informed of what happened at the IRC meetings when we couldn't be there. When you write your book, I'll be sure and get a copy.

    I'll be looking forward to the final votes after the technical analysis.