Gov. Jan Brewer Wins a Round in the Great Arizona Redistricting Battle
Governor Jan Brewer once again shows she is at the forefront of doing what is right for Arizona. The state's 5-member re-districting committee's Democrats and chairwoman wanted to turn a red-state congressional delegation blue by redrawing the boundaries of the state's congressional districts so that the Democrats would end with a 5-to-4 advantage. Brewer called for the legislature to meet in a special session on November 1 to provide comments and recommendations regarding the congressional draft maps and for the state Senate to vote on removing the chairperson, Colleen Mathis. This was done with 21 Republicans voting yes, 6 Democrats voting no, and 3 Democrats not voting. Because Mathis did not perform the duties of her office, she was justly removed.
The chairperson is to be an independent, someone who is supposed to remain neutral and base decisions on facts. The president of the state Senate, Russell Pearce (R), told American Thinker, "We could not sit on the sidelines and watch this abuse of law and partisanship. The chairperson is supposed to be independent which is not the case and never has been the case."
From the very beginning, Mathis was a "closet Democrat." On her application she did not disclose that her husband was the treasurer for the campaign of a Democrat, which smells of fraud. When choosing legal counsel, Commissioner Richard Stertz (R) told American Thinker that he made a substitute motion for the Democrats to have their first choice of counsel, Mary O'Grady, who was ultimately chosen, and the Republicans would have their choice of Lisa Hauser. This motion failed since Mathis voted with the Democrats. Stertz could not understand why the chairwoman "would vote down someone whom we wanted. Hauser actually came in third because of how the other three manipulated the scoring sheet by giving her such a low score. The chairwoman [Mathis] requested the scoring sheets be destroyed. This issue was created by a decision made by the Chair, not allowing us choice of counsel and eliminating the evidence."
There seems to be a pattern here: Mathis consistently voted with the Democrats. Both Commissioners Scott Freeman (R) and Richard Stertz explained how Mathis violated the open meeting laws in an attempt to influence them to vote for the mapping consultant, Strategic Telemetry. The Republican commissioners stated in testimony given to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R) that prior to the vote to choose a mapping consultant, Mathis, requesting a 5-0 vote, privately called them. It appears that by having a unanimous decision, she could claim bipartisanship.
After seeing the Republican commissioners' testimony, Mathis' new argument is that she acted as chief procurement officer, whose duties include building a consensus. Freeman is upset with this response because it is "[i]ncorrect. At the time we were choosing a mapping consultant, the State Procurement Office was assisting the commission. We were sending our evaluations to them not Mathis. This is nonsense. She called me and asked for my vote because she wanted to proceed on a 5-0 vote and told me if I did that for her, she would be willing to listen to me down the road -- kind of quid pro quo. She then called Stertz, who confirmed he had same conversation." Either the chairperson has to get her memory checked, or her phone records should be checked. Why was she attempting to change only the Republican commissioners' minds? This does not appear to be the actions of someone who is truly an independent.
Governor Brewer's and the state Senate's actions were necessary since the commission on November 4, in a 3-to-2 vote, would most likely have approved the Congressional District maps. Mathis has sided with the Democrats in this process as well. Mathew Benson, Governor Brewer's director of communications, conveyed, "The governor was dismayed by the draft of the Congressional District map. This process has been flawed, which has resulted in flawed maps. They [the Democrats and the chairwoman] are too focused on creating competitive districts at the expense of preserving communities of interest, compactness, and giving the Democrats an unfair advantage. This is unconstitutional. The governor's number-one priority is making sure this process is done in accordance with the law. The final product should be something the voters have faith and confidence in."
On a weekend, Mathis created her own map, and she left a doughnut hole in the Maricopa County area. Freeman explained that Linda McNulty, a Democratic commissioner, showed up with a plan for a single district and insisted that it must be placed in the doughnut hole as part of the map, or she would not support any of the maps. Andy Tobin (R), the state Speaker of the House, wants people to consider how the map was made by Mathis, "who is not a computer expert on mapping software. Whom did she work with to help design it?"
State Senator Gail Griffin (R) feels that elected officials must have the ability to meet with their constituents. She cites as an example the new map's Congressional District One, which is drawn from the Mexican border to Flagstaff -- approximately 500 miles long. Griffin cannot understand how a congressperson would be able to represent that large an area, explaining that this does not follow the criteria in the Constitution. Tobin also points out that the new district goes from a competitive district that flipped three times over the last ten years to a 10% Democratic advantage, which is not competitive at all.
Everyone agrees with Senator Pearce, who blames Mathis for "abusing her power. These maps are an attempt to turn a Republican state into a Democratic state by ignoring communities of interest, gerrymandering, not reflecting the demographics of the state, ignoring the rural districts, and violating the very public trust given to this commission." He seems to have a point, since statistics show that Republicans out-registered Democrats by approximately 13%, after taking away the minority-majority districts, and independents have more registrations, placing the Democratic Party in third place among registered voters.
Tobin also told American Thinker that before Mathis' removal, they were getting "slaughtered with e-mails from people who were upset with the map configuration. After her removal, there has not been a huge onslaught of public outcry, which will probably change after this article."
All interviewed want the process to start over since it is flawed and unconstitutional. They would like to see Proposition 106, which created this redistricting process, either amended or repealed. They want more transparency, where the Constitution is followed, the rural population has a voice, a true independent is appointed chair, and all executive sessions are banned. Since the Democrats and Mathis are attempting to involve the courts, those interviewed are hoping that this will be seen as a violation of the separation of powers. The redistricting decisions should be in the best interests of the voting public because they will have to live with the consequences for the next ten years.