New Arizona Lines Mean Battle Between GOP Freshmen

Posted October 5, 2011 at 1:37pm

A draft Congressional map released by the Independent Redistricting Commission looks to pit two House GOP freshmen against each other in a Member-vs.-Member battle.

Rep. David Schweikert announced Tuesday that he will run in the new 6th district, where fellow Republican Rep. Ben Quayle is also planning a run, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

The new lines have created geographic problems for Schweikert and Quayle. Quayle’s home was just barely carved out of the new 6th, and what was once Schweikert’s primary residence is in the new 4th. Schweikert is updating his voter registration to another home that he owns with his wife in the 6th.

Republicans hold a 5-3 advantage in the delegation, and Arizona is gaining one House seat because of population increases. The new lines could shift that, with two seats that would appear to be tossups and only four solid GOP districts.

The 6th is an affluent district located in north Scottsdale, near Phoenix.

“Should the proposed Congressional district map passed by the Independent Redistricting Commission become final, I intend to run for reelection in the new Congressional District 6,” Schweikert wrote in an e-mail to his supporters.

Schweikert also stressed his personal history with the district, including attending grade school there.
Quayle, on the other hand, lives within spitting distance of the new district, which includes 510,000 of his current constituents.

The 2nd district is a wild card until Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) decides whether to seek re-election. Both parties believe the 2nd district is now slightly safer for Democrats, but in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Giffords, it will be difficult for a Republican to win if she runs.

Republicans are miffed at the redistricting changes and are crying foul over the process.

In an effort to reduce gerrymandering, Arizona voters passed an initiative in 2000 that took redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and gave it to a five-member bipartisan commission.

State party leaders chose four of the five members, two Democrats and two Republicans. Then those members selected the last member, who is a registered Independent and serves as the commission chairman. The two Democrats and the Independent approved the map.

Conservatives also griped that the software and raw data to draw the map came from Strategic Telemetry, a firm that has helped Democrats in the past. However, the commission drew the lines on the map without the company’s input.

The commission will seek constituent feedback for 30 days and can make changes if members are swayed by the public.

After that, the map is submitted to the Justice Department for preclearance approval to make sure it does not deny citizens the right to vote because of their race or language.