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Pearce, Tobin praise Republican commissioners

House Speaker Andy Tobin (left) and Senate President Russell Pearce (Photos by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Senate President Russell Pearce and House Speaker Andy Tobin had a message Friday for the two Republican members of the embattled Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission – we know this isn’t your fault.

In a letter to Republican Commissioners Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz – whom the two chamber leaders appointed to the IRC – Pearce and Tobin said they were confident that the two commissioners had fulfilled their roles “with excellence and integrity.”

Despite the fact that Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday demanded answers from all five commissioners regarding a handful of accusations – the letter was the first step needed to impeach members of the IRC – Pearce and Tobin made it clear that they blamed only the two Democrats and the independent chairwoman for the alleged malfeasance.

“We are confident that both of you are faithfully following the law. We know that your responses to the governor’s letter will reflect that you have not participated in any of the disturbing and lawless conduct that has made this commission’s tenure so difficult,” they wrote. “We stand with you.”

Brewer initiated the removal process for all five commissioners, but most impeachment talk has focused on independent Chairwoman Colleen Mathis, who has routinely sided with Democratic Commissioners Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty. A spokesman for the governor said Brewer has not yet decided whether to call a special session to remove any commissioners and will wait until she receives their response before making any decisions.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. Saturday in Yuma to discuss its response to Brewer’s letter, following a public hearing the IRC’s congressional and legislative draft maps. IRC spokesman Stuart Robinson said Herrera will attend in person, but the others will likely phone in.

The commissioners have said they will respond to Brewer’s questions, but Robinson said he didn’t know whether they would be able to meet the 8 a.m. Monday deadline Brewer set. The commission needed 48 hours’ notice to schedule the meeting under the state’s open meeting laws, and was unable to schedule the meeting until Thursday. He also didn’t know whether the commissioners will respond individually or as a group.

“They can’t really do anything until Saturday afternoon,” Robinson said. “That’s less than 48 hours before the governor’s deadline.”

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