First, a quick update. The Arizona Mirror reports that an Independent IRC chair candidate withdraws from consideration:
Nicole Cullen, an American history, government and criminal justice teacher at Perry High School in Gilbert, withdrew her candidacy for the next Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, citing family circumstances, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments announced Thursday.
Cullen’s withdrawal eliminates only one of two independent chair candidates whom the Democrats hadn’t raised objections to. The chair is selected by the two Democratic and two Republican commissioners picked by legislative leaders, meaning both parties have a theoretical veto on any independent candidate.
The Arizona Constitution requires the commission to select five finalists for the independent chair position. The appellate commission will meet on Tuesday to select a replacement for Cullen.
Let’s just say “The Replacements” are not good choices. Expect to be disappointed on Tuesday.
More importantly, Republicans are already plotting against the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission should they lose their majority in one or both houses of the Arizona legislature in November’s election. This is what an authoritarian anti-democratic party does.
If the Republicans were to retain their majority, they would be the first to say “to the victors go the spoils.” But should Democrats take over the majority in November, oh no, not for you! Lame-duck Republicans are prepared to seize control of the redistricting process.
The Arizona Mirror reports, Timing may be everything when it comes to redistricting commission picks:
The timeline for appointing the four partisan members of the next Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is unclear, and the answer could determine not only when the selections are made but who is making them.
Republican and Democratic leaders in each chamber of the legislature select the first four members of the IRC. The speaker of the House of Representatives makes the first pick, followed, in order, by the House minority leader, Senate president and Senate minority leader. The two Democrats and two Republicans selected by the lawmakers choose the fifth member, an independent who serves as chair.
The Arizona Constitution gives the House speaker until Jan. 31 to make a choice. But the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which vets redistricting applicants, selected its 25 finalists — 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and five independents — last week, and the list is now ready for legislative leaders.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, could pick the first member of the next IRC any time he wishes. And that would start a ticking clock for Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, the House minority leader.
Once the speaker makes a selection, the House minority leader has to make a choice within seven days or she forfeits the pick. The Senate president and Senate minority then have seven days from the preceding pick to make their own selections.
The timing is important for several reasons.
First, no more than two of the four partisan IRC members can be from the same party or county. That means if Bowers were to choose a Maricopa County resident, only one of the next three redistricting commissioners could hail from Arizona’s largest county. And if Fernandez also chose a Maricopa resident, that would block the Senate leaders from choosing anyone from that county.
Twelve of the 20 partisan finalists — five Democrats and seven Republicans — are from Maricopa County. Residents of Apache, Pima and Pinal counties round out the GOP list, while the Democrats have two from Pima and one apiece from Apache, Coconino and Yavapai counties.
The second reason why the timing of the pick is important is that at least one and possibly as many as three legislative caucus leaders will change after the election.
Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, is termed out and will be replaced as leader of the Senate Democrats. In the House, both leaders face challenges. Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, has announced that he’ll challenge Bowers for the speaker’s chair, while Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, is running against Fernandez.
That means who makes the picks is subject to change. Finchem, Espinoza and any Democrat seeking to replace Bradley could have a vested interest in waiting until after the post-election leadership races are settled.
Furthermore, the order of the picks could change depending on how the legislative races shake out in November. Democrats are hopeful that they’ll take control of at least one legislative chamber — they need a net gain of two seats in the House and three in the Senate — and if they’re successful, that would change the order in which the picks are made. If the Democrats take the House for the first time since 1966, Fernandez or Espinoza would choose first, followed by Bowers or Finchem.
Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for Bowers, wouldn’t say whether the speaker planned to wait until after the election to make the first pick for the IRC.
“Speaker Bowers will be approaching this important constitutional role with the seriousness it deserves and reviewing the nominees closely,” Wilder said in an emailed statement.
Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, told the Mirror that she has no preference as to whether the selection process begins before or after the election, and hasn’t had any discussions about the issue.
But there’s still work to do before anyone starts choosing commissioners. Fann said she and Bowers will likely want to interview all of the Republican candidates.
“Sounds to me like we have a lot of work and research to do,” Fann said via text message.
Fernandez said she hopes Bowers will wait until after the election, though she doesn’t know if he’ll wait that long and suspected he’ll make his choice before then. She noted that several current caucus leaders may no longer be part of legislative leadership after the election, and one leader, Bradley, won’t even be in the legislature when the next session begins.
“I’m sure the goal is to have the first pick. With that in mind, I’m sure that they would want to get it done as soon as possible,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said she plans to interview the Democratic candidates, and that the other members of the House Democratic leadership team will be included in that process. She also plans to confer with the rest of her caucus before making any decisions.
Traditionally, legislative leaders have waited until well after the election to start selecting redistricting commissioners. In 2001, then-Speaker Jim Weirs selected James Huntwork as the first member of Arizona’s first redistricting commission on Jan. 15, and the final partisan pick was made on Feb. 2.
During the last selection process, then-House Speaker Kirk Adams waited until Jan. 31, the final day, to select Republican Scott Freeman as the first member of the IRC. Then-Senate Minority Leader David Schapira made the final selection on Feb. 15.
Tradition and comity should dictate that the new leadership elected in January make the selections to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. If this has to be put into legislation to prevent this kind of partisan gamesmanship in the future, do it.
The Arizona Capitol Times adds (subscription required), When, who picks IRC members a political pickle:
Chad Campbell, the House minority leader in 2011 who is now a political consultant, speculated that litigation would be on the horizon if Bowers makes his pick immediately after the election and Democrats take control of the House.
“If the majority flips, then something needs to be done to make sure the majority caucus gets to make the first pick,” Campbell said.
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Campbell said his chief priorities while making his selection for the commission were ensuring his choice would “fight for fair maps” and that the IRC had more than “just a bunch of white dudes up there.”
That didn’t go as well as planned. Nominations for redistricting panel lack diversity, Democrats allege:
Democratic lawmakers pointed to a lack of diversity in the candidates the committee considered for the task of redrawing the boundaries of Arizona’s legislative and congressional districts.
The group is much less diverse than the state’s population, of which about 45% is people of color.
The legislators noted in a letter to the commission that only eight of the 51 applicants initially selected for interviews during hearings this week were people of color, or about 15%.
They urged the commission to interview more applicants.
Ultimately, five of the 25 applicants nominated for seats on the redistricting commission are people of color. That’s 20%.
Democrats this year will likely have the same goals while picking their appointees, he said, but a new factor is that control of the House and Senate may be hanging in the balance as leaders choose their appointees.
Republicans engaged in multiple lawsuits over the AIRC a decade ago and lost every lawsuit, only resulting in strengthening the AIRC. Republicans still want to destroy the AIRC – the will of the people be damned.