Arizona Map in Flux After Mathis Impeachment

Posted November 2, 2011 at 4:35pm

Members of the Arizona delegation weighed in Wednesday on Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R) intervention in the redistricting process. Not surprisingly, their responses fell sharply along party lines.

“When they don’t like what happens, they do everything in their power to abuse their authority,” Rep. Ed Pastor (D) said when asked about Republicans’ move late Tuesday to oust Chairwoman Colleen Mathis from the state’s independent redistricting commission.

But GOP Rep. Trent Franks said the governor did the right thing in removing Mathis.

“The commission drew a district line that was absolutely perfect for me, so this potentially could hurt me,” Franks said. “Jan Brewer has always done the thing that was based in principle, even if it was politically awkward or unpopular.”

While the new map spared Franks, it favored Democrats overall and endangered Republicans such as Rep. Paul Gosar, who also voiced support for Brewer.

If Mathis’ impeachment stands, the state’s constitution has a succession process, and it is not a certainty that Republicans will get a friendlier replacement. The Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments “shall nominate a pool of three candidates” within 30 days of the vacancy. Those nominees must be members of the same party as the former commissioner.

The remaining commission members will then select the new chairman from that pool. If they are unable to decide in 14 days, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will choose the new member, “striving for political balance and fairness.”

To merit removal, a member must have committed “substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office.”

The commission’s counsel, Mary O’Grady, refutes that anyone on the commission was involved with such behavior. “They [Brewer and the Senate] exceeded their authority. We don’t think that any of the allegations rose to the level that would justify the removal,” she said.

She also confirmed that they are legally challenging the removal. Her team filed papers last night in the Arizona Superior Court and the Arizona Supreme Court prior to the removal vote. They are now currently updating those papers to address that Mathis was actually removed.

“What we’d like for them to do is to declare that the removal was invalid,” she said. “These are the things that the courts decide when they review the maps.”

Paul Charlton, Mathis’ attorney, added: “The Legislature and the Governor have no idea how tough Ms. Mathis is.”

Arizona Democrats held a conference call Wednesday afternoon to strategize their legal options. They will be acting independently from the commission, although they share similar concerns. One Democrat told Roll Call that the threatened recall of four state Senators that the party issued Tuesday night “remains on the table.”

The redistricting commission is continuing to tour the contentious map around the state seeking public feedback. A spokesman for the commission described the current state of redistricting as “uncharted territory.”