Thursday, December 09, 2010

The short list for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

On Wednesday, the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, chaired by Rebecca White Berch, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, interviewed 39 applicants for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC).  They screened the pool down to 25 (10 Ds, 10 Rs, 5 Independents).

The leadership of the legislature - House Speaker Kirk Adams, Senate President Russell Pearce, House Democratic leader Chad Campbell, and Senate Democratic leader David Schapira - will each select a member (presumably from their own parties) and those four will select someone from the pool of Independent applicants to act as chair.

As is unusual on West Washington, but apparently the norm for meetings conducted by Chief Justice Berch, the meeting started on time. 

However, I arrived late.  Not to worry though.  Punctual they may be, they are still (mostly) lawyers, and they like to talk.  They were still in the preliminary, executive session part the meeting when I arrived at approximately 9:25 a.m. and hadn't started the actual interviews. (That punctuality caught up to me after lunch, but not too badly.)

The interview session started at around 9:40. 

They asked each of the candidates the same three questions, periodically rotating the questioners.

The first question asked the candidates to explain their understanding of the purpose and process of the Redistricting Commission.

The second question inquired as to the candidates' ability and willingness to make the time committment necessary for the AIRC.

The final, wrap-up, question asked the candidates to talk about what experience and skills that they would bring to the Commission, and why the Appellate Court Appointments Commission should forward their name to the legislature for final consideration.

To sum up, paraphrasing Chief Justice Berch, it was the shortest job interview any of the applicants (and the onlookers) had likely ever seen.

Most of the answers to the first question were decent, ranging from a few who gave answers that sounded like they were straight out of a tea party textbook (the U.S. House of Representatives is "the People's House", etc.) to a thorough understanding of the AIRC (to be fair though, that candidate had an advantage - he had been the executive director of the first AIRC).

The answers for the second question varied a little more.  While most of the candidates stated that yes, they would be able to make the time committment necessary, they were all over the place in their understanding of the time that they would need.

The conception of that ranged for 4 hours per week (huh?!?) to 5300 hours total.  The number heard most often was 15 hours/week, but most of that will be front-loaded into the first 6 - 8 months of the Commission's activities.  Presumably after that period, the bulk of the Commission's work will be complete, though litigation is all but inevitable.

Redistricting, even if it is done fairly, honestly, and transparently, ticks off special interest groups, who will sue to try to get an outcome more favorable to their interests.  Perhaps they will sue especially if redistricting is done fairly, honestly, and transparently.

After the first few months, the workload should lessen for the rank-and-file members of the AIRC.  However, in light of the likely litigation, the chair of the AIRC will be busy for at least a couple of years, dealing with lawyers, the media, and more lawyers.

The Independent applicants are in line for the chairmanship, and most of them exhibited almost no clue as to what they are in for.

*Someone* is going to feel like they got hit by a bus.

Anyway, the list of finalists, linked to their applications:

Democrats -

Robert Cannon of Phoenix

Marshall Worden of Tucson

Lawrence Mohrweis of Flagstaff

Jose Herrera of Phoenix

William Roe of Tucson

Marcia Busching of Phoenix

Eric Henderson of Holbrook

Mark Rubin of Tucson

Jimmie Smith of Yuma

Linda McNulty of Tucson

None of the Democratic candidates were unanimously supported.  One of the Republicans on the Appellate Court Appointments Commission, Doug Cole, wouldn't support strong D candidates.  The list, however, was approved unanimously.

Cole works for High Ground Inc. for Chuck Coughlin, Governor Jan Brewer's chief "adviser."  He was appointed by Brewer in 2009 and is widely regarded as "the Governor's guy" on the Appellate Court Appointments Commission.

Independents -

Raymond Bladine of Phoenix

Colleen Mathis of Tucson

Kimber Lanning of Phoenix

Paul Bender of Phoenix

Margarita Silva of Laveen

Bladine was the only candidate here who was unanimously supported.  Paul Bender was the most highly qualified of all of the candidates but one considered by some to be too liberal to be acceptable.  Many of the Republicans refused to vote for him individually.  Two of the Republicans, including Doug Cole, didn't even vote to approve the list that included Bender.

Republicans -

Jim Bruner of Scottsdale

Mark Schnepf of Gilbert

Louis DeLeon of Phoenix

Lynn Werner of Tempe

Benny White of Tucson

Susan Shultz of Paradise Valley

Michael Perry of Phoenix

Patrick McWhortor of Cave Creek

Scott Freeman of Phoenix

Stephen Sossaman of Queen Creek

Two of the Republican applicants were supported unanimously - Mark Schnepf and Louis DeLeon.  Color me shocked.  Or not.

Schnepf received 14 votes (Chief Justice Berch didn't vote and wouldn't have unless there was a tie in need of breaking.  There wasn't, so she didn't.) and Louis DeLeon received 13 because Louis Araneta, one of the nominating commission members, is his cousin.  Mr. Araneta recused himself during consideration of his cousin's application.

It was interesting to see how the tenor of the interviews changed once the Republicans took the floor.  While the panel was professional and courteous during the interviews of the Democratic and Independent candidates, they became almost deferential with the Republicans.  For example, if Cole and Schnepf were any more buddy-buddy, we'd have (politely) suggested that they  get a room.  (Relax Rs, that's just a metaphor for "they liked each other a lot."  Let me be clear - there was no evidence that one or both is gay.)

The meeting ended a little early.  The projection had been for it to take until 3 p.m., but the meeting was adjourned at 2:43 p.m.

Now the four legislators will hear from *everybody* about who they should choose for the redistricting commission.  Those selections will start in mid-January, with the final, fifth, selection occurring by the end of February.  The redistricting commission should (in theory!) be done its work by next fall.

In theory.

Stay tuned.

All of the applications, including those of the candidates who didn't make the cut, and the written public comments submitted in support of/opposition to particular candidates, here.

Arizona Republic coverage, courtesy Mary Jo Pitzl, here.

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