Friday, October 28, 2011

AZ Republicans taking the "3 Bs"* approach to redistricting

* = "Bluster, Bully, and Bullshit"

Arizona's Republicans, led by their officeholders, are crying "foul" over the independent redistricting process.

They've whined about all sorts of alleged misdeeds and wrongdoing on the part of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), but mostly they're upset over the fact that, unlike the last incarnation of the AIRC, this Commission is actually living up to the "Independent" part of their name.

They started their attacks with "bluster", ranging from busing scads of "grass roots" Republicans to AIRC hearings and meetings all over the state, many of whom read, with voices filled with self-righteous indignation, from a script of fabricated talking points (seriously, many of them walked up to the microphone script in hand and read the same text over and over) to press releases denouncing the AIRC as partisan and not in keeping with the wishes of Arizona's voters.

They then added "bully" to their repertoire, first with threats from people like Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, a scam artist of long renown, ginning up an "investigation" of the Commission to the current kangaroo court conducted by the members of the Republican majority in the legislature where people like Republican state senator Andy Biggs has bullied and ridiculed members of the public who don't drink the Kool-Aid and follow the script of "independent redistricting really bad, Republican officeholders really good" (check out the video archive here; as of this writing, there are archives of four of the meetings of the Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting.  Each of them contains many examples of this behavior.  Also, Steve at Arizona Eagletarian has reporting here and here).

Note:  While I was writing this post, word came down that Horne has been disqualified from investigating the AIRC.

Also, Jan Brewer, Arizona's Republican governor is threatening to call a special session of the Arizona Senate in order to remove the commissioners for what she calls "gross misconduct" and I call "living up to the 'Independent' in 'Independent Redistricting Commission'."

As for the "bullshit" part of the "3 Bs", well, that's been an integral part of the game plan all along.

Whether it was the assertion that renowned Constitutional scholar Paul Bender was unqualified to even be nominated to the AIRC and suing to have him removed from the list of nominees, the claims that Colleen Mathis, selected as the independent chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission was actually a Democrat, the assertions that the AIRC has been too secretive in its operations and deliberations crafting the draft maps that have the Republicans so upset, or more, the Rs have been flinging bullshit against the AIRC's wall for months hoping that some of it sticks.

So far, their efforts have only left the Rs with stinky hands, but that hasn't made them less determined to undermine the AIRC and the will of the voters, who created the AIRC specifically to remove elected officials from the redistricting process.

A few facts:

The AIRC has held dozens of public meetings and hearings and accepted *hundreds* of hours of public input on the maps and the factors that should be considered when laying out the new legislative and Congressional districts.

Colleen Mathis *is* an Independent.  The issue of her husband's support for a Democratic candidate in one election ignores the fact that her husband has also supported Republican candidates, attending a Bush inauguration ball with her.

Professor Paul Bender, a true Independent (more liberal than the Rs or Ds) is so qualified that the members of  Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, most of whom are accomplished in their fields, enthusiastically supported his nomination when screening the applicants for the AIRC (except for Doug Cole, Chuck Coughlin's plant on the commission,  Cole was like Mikey of Life Cereal fame - he hates everything...that doesn't result in increased power and profits for him, Coughlin, and their clients at HighGround).

Another thing area that has sparked Republican complaints is that the draft maps have resulted in incumbents such as Congressmen David Schweikert and Ben Quayle facing off in a primary.

What they don't mention in their complaints is that both Schweikert and Quayle have freely chosen to run in a district that they don't live in (Schweikert lives in draft CD4, Quayle in draft CD9, but both would rather run in north Scottsdale, which is in draft CD6).  Something that is allowed under the US Constitution, but it is rather cynical for them to make that choice and then complain about the unfairness of the AIRC.

Note:  The draft CD9 is competitive, leaning slightly R, while both the draft CD4 and draft CD6 are overwhelmingly R.  Draft CD4 has a strong rural component though, and Schweikert is most definitely not an "honorary judge of cow milking contests at 4-H fairs" kind of guy.

As for the whining that the AIRC has sacrificed "communities of interest" to bolster "competitiveness" -

The AIRC's competitiveness analysis of the draft maps are here (legislative) and here (Congressional).

Based on the voter registration numbers, only one of the 30 legislative districts is truly competitive and maybe four others have a realistic chance of breaking that way.  Otherwise, 18 LDs will be solidly R and seven will be solidly D.  Even if all five of the competitive and quasi-competitive districts go Democratic (possible, but not likely), that would result in 18-12 and 36-24 splits (favoring the Rs) in the AZ Senate and House respectively.  Not exactly leading to a positive change in AZ there.

Also based on the registration numbers, the Congressional districts wouldn't be much better.  Two of the nine Congressional districts would be competitive, while four would be solidly R and three would be solidly D (one of the D districts would be poachable by the Rs, but it would be an uphill battle).

Based on the numbers, about the only real "community of interest" whose interests have been sacrificed  is the community called "Arizona", which stands to gain the most from having districts competitive enough to force candidates and officeholders to actually represent their constituents, not just their friends at country club cocktail parties and tea party "Kool-Aid" drinking sessions.

Of course, the draft maps *do*protect the "community of interest" that least needs protection -

Republican officeholders.

And that fact won't change no matter how much they whine about things in an attempt to intimidate the AIRC into making the maps even less competitive than they are already.

The second round of hearings is winding down, but there is still time to add your voice in support of an increased number of truly competitive districts.

The AIRC will travel to places like Yuma, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Marana, Casa Grande and Cottonwood in the next week.  Make plans to be at one or more (if possible) hearings.  If that isn't feasible, the AIRC accepts public input via phone, email, or through their website.

...In a related matter, some pics from the AIRC hearing held in Mesa on Wednesday evening (note - the overall turnout was light, but out of two dozen speakers, only one or two came out against competitive districts):

Commissioner Scott Freeman, the commissioner in attendance Wednesday

Korinne Kubena Belock of Strategic Telemetry giving a overview of the redistricting process

Tempe Democratic activist  Lauren Kuby speaking in support of competitive districts

State Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, advocating for keeping Yuma and La Paz counties together, and out of a Maricopa County-dominated LD

Jay Schlum, mayor of Fountain Hills, testifying in favor of changing the maps to put FH together with other northeast valley communities like Rio Verde.  Other local elected officials there, from places like Queen Creek, Apache Junction, Gilbert, Chandler, and more similarly spoke on behalf of issue relevent to their particular communities.

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