Redistricting update: No change, Pearce and Adams fended off

by Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings

The Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments met today to consider the "Communication from House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President-Elect Russell Pearce" – basically, they met to decide whether to reopen the nomination process for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission because Pearce and Adams didn't like the list of candidates from which they will select two members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC).

Summary:  NO, the Appellate Court Appointments Commission won't reopen the process.


As has been her practice, Chief Justice Rebecca Berch started the meeting on schedule at 9 a.m.

After a couple of housekeeping items (i.e. – approval of minutes), the first to address the assembled Commission members were Kirk Adams and Russell Pearce.  As expected, both requested that the Appellate Court Appointments commission reopen the nomination process, remove three candidates that they consider to be unqualified, and add the name of Christopher Gleason to the pool.

Then they both left the meeting.

They were the last people who weren't members of the Appellate Court Appointments commission to speak in favor of reopening the short list.

All of the other public speakers, including luminaries such as Paul Berman, Dean of the ASU Law School, Lattie Coor, former President of ASU, Sue Gerard, currently a member of Maricopa County Special Healthcare District and one of the driving forces behind the proposition that set up the AIRC, and State Representative Chad Campbell, House Democratic Leader-elect, stood up to support the process so far and its results.

Campbell went so far as to advise the Commission members to ignore him and any other elected officials who weigh in on this.  The voters have chosen to make the redistricting process independent, and it should stay that way.

It was clear from the outset that the majority of the Appellate Court Appointments commission did not support making any changes, but it took two hours to make that official.

One factor that lengthened the meeting was a technical point.  The physical list of nominees hadn't been sent to the legislators who will make appointments from that list, leaving open the possibility that the nominating process wasn't complete.  And with the withdrawals of two of the Republican candidates, the constitutional requirement that the R list contain 10 names couldn't be met.

However, that point brought up another question – if there was no list, how then could Pearce and Adams find problems with the list and then very publicly pressure two of the members of that list to withdraw?

The outcome was that the Commission voted to *not* accept the withdrawals of Republican candidates Schnepf and Sossaman and to affirm their earlier inclusion of Paul Bender on the list of Independent candidates.

One sentiment that most of the members of the Commission seemed to share, R, D, and Independent alike, was that none of them like to be bullied.

Other than Doug Cole (R-Chuck Coughlin's plant on the board) and three others, the board members objected to the heavy-handed tactics of Pearce and Adams –

– John Taylor, an Independent from Yavapai County, observed that "[t]hey (meaning Pearce and Adams) are trying to tell us what to do."

– Dewey Schade, a Republican from Maricopa County, added that Pearce and Adams "tipped their hand" when they pressured Schnepf and Sossaman to withdraw from consideration, and that the Commission should "consider the source" when pondering the complaints that have come up.

– Jane Strain, a Republican from Cochise County, advised everyone present "I don't deal well with threats" in response to suggestions that failing to accede to Pearce's and Adams' demand would result in a lawsuit.

In response to the other issue that had cropped up, the complaints from Pearce, Adams, the Center for Arizona Theology Policy and others that a remark from a now-former member of the Appellate Court Appointments commission regarding one of the candidates who didn't make it onto the final short list (the aforementioned Christopher Gleason) constituted a "religious test" for public office.

At the December 8, 2010 meeting where most of the AIRC candidates were interviewed, Louis Araneta stated that the reason he wouldn't be voting to send on Gleason's name to the legislature was that he questioned Gleason's ability to separate church and state.

That set off a ginned-up furor, with cries of "religious discrimination!" and the like. 

However, as was pointed out in today's meeting, many of the other applicants' applications exhibited far more religious involvement than did Gleason's.  Additionally, many of the members of the Appellate Court Appointments commission also have strong religious components in their lives.

Chief Justice Berch noted that she thought that Araneta's comment went to Gleason's ability to be  impartial not his faith.  The rest of the Appellate Court Appointments commission echoed her sentiment.

A candidate's impartiality is something that the commission members are constitutionally required to consider in their evaluation of a candidate.

Commissioner Strain pointed out that she prays every night, including for the "five poor souls" who will eventually be named to the AIRC, whoever they might be.  There was more than a little laughter at that comment.

After the meeting, Rep. Campbell summed it up best when he said simply that "[t]he voters of the state won today."

Pic of Campbell addressing the meeting

Today's meeting was recorded.  That video will eventually be uploaded to the AIRC website, or the nominations website, or perhaps the Appellate Appointments commission's website.  That much wasn't made clear, but the fact that it *will* eventually be uploaded was definitely stated by Chief Justice Berch.

Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services has coverage here, via the East Valley Tribune.

Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic has coverage here.

Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times has coverage here.

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