There they go again. State Democrats would have you believe that Gov. Jan Brewer and Senate Republicans threw a tantrum and ousted an embattled Colleen Mathis from the Independent Redistricting Commission because “they didn’t like the lines,” or because the proposed maps were “too competitive” for those bad old Republicans. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the IRC proposal is less competitive than our existing district maps. The Senate’s decision was based purely on the constitutional process and requirements outlined in Proposition 106 (2000). When maps were discussed at all in Senate hearings, it was only in the context of illustrating how Mathis’ commission neglected its constitutional responsibilities.
The Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee, formed as prescribed in the State Constitution, met for a total of over 12 hours before reaching any conclusions. All of its meetings are viewable in online video archives. Among other things, the JLRC found that Mathis and other commissioners may have engaged in repeated incidents of unconstitutional and possibly illegal behavior, including:
• Violating Open Meetings Law by holding “telephone meetings” to pre-arrange votes.
• Violating the state procurement process by disclosing bid amounts to their preferred company and allowing it to modify its bid (and allowing the company to make up the difference by hiring “consultants” after the contract was awarded).
• Coordinating bid-rigging efforts in order to ensure a high score for their preferred company.
• Stonewalling a legal investigation, including destruction of relevant documents.
• Deliberately gerrymandering to draw favored incumbents into “safe” districts and pit unfavored incumbents against one another.
All while spending taxpayer dollars on the most partisan company with the most expensive bid, and retaining several high-priced attorneys at our expense. Mathis is reported to have had four state-funded attorneys by the time of her removal.
Brewer and the Senate Republicans followed the State Constitution to the letter in their action to remove Mathis from office. Arizona’s Democrat Party chose to respond by threatening several State Senators with recalls, including our own Sen. John McComish. Welcome to the new partisan strategy: Election, schmelection, just get some big out-of-state donors to hire signature collectors and call a do-over. McComish does not deserve this treatment. He advocated for Ahwatukee in the redistricting process and has shown his commitment to serving our community time and again. With his vote on the IRC matter, he chose to honor the State Constitution over his personal political interests. For this he should be commended and thanked.
• Jeni White is chairperson of the Arizona Legislative District 20 Republican Party.