Arizona Republicans Remove Independent Redistricting Chairman

Arizona Republicans Independent Redistricting Chairman

WASHINGTON -- The Republican-controlled Arizona State Senate voted along party lines on Tuesday evening to remove the chair of the state Independent Redistricting Commission, setting up legal challenges and throwing Arizona's redistricting process into disarray.

Tensions rose last week when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) sent a letter to the chair, Colleen Mathis, who is the lone independent on the five-person panel. She accused the commission of "gross misconduct" in redrawing the lines and warned it about elevating "competitiveness" over geographically compact and contiguous districts.

Even though Mathis is a registered independent, Republicans have accused her of being too partisan and being too secretive about commission business.

"It's a sad day for Arizona," said Paul Charlton, Mathis' attorney. "There has been no meaningful opportunity for Colleen to tell her version of events. This was just an opportunity for Republicans to take over this process."

Arizona picked up one seat in Congress following the 2010 Census, giving it nine congressional districts. The commission drew a map in which four districts are heavily Republican, two are heavily Democratic, and three are competitive. Currently, there are five Republicans and three Democrats in Arizona's congressional delegation.

Prior to last night's vote, commission attorney Mary O'Grady attempted to appeal to the state Supreme Court to block the Senate's action, but the vote was completed before any action could take place.

Due to the vote and subsequent legal challenge, there are now conflicting views as to what the fate of Mathis is.

"It's my view that she is most certainly still the chairman," said Charlton.

However, in a letter to Mathis, Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), acting on behalf of Brewer, wrote, "I hereby remove you as the fifth member of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and as its Chair. This removal will be effective immediately upon concurrence of two-thirds of the Arizona Senate."

Bennett had to send the letter to Mathis as he is acting governor of the state with Brewer in New York promoting her new book.

Arizona Democrats immediately decried the decision.

"What we have here is a witch hunt ... with a predetermined outcome," said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D).

Additionally, the Arizona Democratic Party has said that it will work to recall four Republican Arizona state senators who represent moderate, urban and suburban districts: Rich Crandall of Mesa, Adam Driggs of Phoenix, John McComish of Phoenix, and Michele Reagan of Scottsdale.

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