Thursday, February 24, 2011

Redistricting update: not much to update

Today, the four partisan members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) met to interview the five Independent candidates for the final, and chair's, spot on the AIRC, but after the interviews, they chose to delay the selection until Tuesday.

The meeting start a few minutes late, at approximately 2:35 p.m. (the time listed on the agenda was 2:30 p.m.)

After a brief explanation of the history of the room - it used to be the meeting room of the Arizona Supreme Court and was the home of many decisions, including the famous Miranda decision.  Not relevant, but OK...until he went on with a somewhat odd recounting of that decision and the future activities of the principals), Bennett proceeded to swear in the four AIRC members who have been appointed by the legislative leadership.

Richard Stertz, Scott Freeman, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Jose Herrera, and Linda McNulty

Things proceeded a little faster than expected - because the published agenda indicated that the first interview would start at 3 p.m., they had to recess the meeting for a few minutes.  After that, however, the interview part of the meeting proceeded efficiently.

As should have been expected for a group of applicants who have already been thoroughly researched, interviewed, and screened, they all did a good job at their interviews.  While each exhibited a couple of "weak" answers to the questions posed by the panel, each them was thoughtful and polished and appeared to be eminently qualified.  Even without the political pressures on the current AIRC foursome, they'll have a tough time making their choice.

And have no doubt, they're already feeling some *heavy* pressure. 

A member of the public, Norris Nordvold, speaking on behalf of candidate Ray Bladine, issued a not-too-thinly veiled threat to the AIRC. 

Some concerns over the AIRC's budget cropped up during the afternoon.  The original AIRC had approximately $6 million to use; the new AIRC currently has $500K. 

Nordvold mentioned the possibility of the Legislature appropriating significantly less money for the next fiscal year if they don't like the choice for chair.

Call it a "don't you dare pick Paul Bender" moment.

Nordvold addressing the panel

The next speaker, Jim Huntwork, a Republican member of the original AIRC, spent his entire time railing about native tribes, in an attempt to influence the members of the new AIRC to nullify the recent decision of the Arizona Supreme Court to allow Professor Bender's candidacy to continue in spite of the same objections from Russell Pearce and Kirk Adams, the Senate President and Speaker of the House, respectively.

Other than that, however, things seemed pretty straightforward today.

We'll see what the next meeting, as well as the next few months, look like.

I hope this isn't jinxing things, but I predict the next lawsuit will be rooted in today's discussions - if the current members of the AIRC surrender to Pearce and Adams on the selection of the chair, they'll be opening themselves up to litigation from the other candidates as well as others.  If they don't surrender and the lege tries to use its budgetary powers to retaliate, interfering with the redistricting process, court actions from the feds and from other groups who are affected by redistricting.

And that doesn't even begin to address what the U.S. Department of Justice could do to Arizona if they believe that Pearce and Adams are trying to corrupt the process.

I'll let attorneys speak more on this; they know far more than I do.

Anyway, candidates under consideration are:

Kimber Lanning

Colleen Mathis

Ray Bladine

Paul Bender

Margarita Silva

The next meeting, at which the selection will presumably be made, will be Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the conference room of the Arizona State Library (the same location as today's meeting.)

Steve Muratore of the blog The Arizona Eagletarian has coverage here.

Some pics from the meeting:

The members of the AIRC and Ken Bennett speaking during the first recess of the committee.  On the far left: Jim Barton of the Arizona Attorney General's Office, present to provide legal advice, when necessary.

Professor Paul Bender thanking the members of the panel after his interview.

candidate Ray Bladine during his interview

candidate Colleen Mathis during her interview

candidate Kimber Lanning during her interview

candidate Margarita Silva during her interview

During Kimber Lanning's interview, from left to right:  Bennett, Herrera, McNulty, and Lanning.  I'm not sure who the man in the corner is; he was photographing the proceeding for an MSM outlet, I think.

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