Democratic redistricting commissioners Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty lambasted Gov. Jan Brewer for what they called a coordinated attempt to interfere with the work of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
In their responses to Brewer’s Oct. 26 letter – a constitutional precursor required to remove a commissioner from office – the two Democrats said the governor’s accusations were both premature and baseless.
Herrera said Brewer’s “unprecedented letter” was entirely unsupported by the facts, and suggested that the governor had a more sinister motive. Brewer’s actions, he said, “strongly suggest that you are pursuing a stick-and-carrot strategy of intimidation designed to inappropriately influence the work of what the voters intended to be an independent body of citizen volunteers free from political influence.”
McNulty too accused Brewer of trying to interfere with the IRC’s work and said her letter was “ill-advised and ill-informed.”
“I feel that your letter, along with now-disqualified Attorney General Tom Horne’s so-called open meeting ‘investigation,’ represent another facet of what has been a coordinated and seemingly relentless campaign to interfere with the ability of this commission to perform its constitutionally mandated responsibilities,” McNulty wrote.
Both Democrats disputed Brewer’s accusation that the IRC ignored constitutional criteria for drawing congressional and legislative districts. Both noted that the six criteria sometimes conflict and must be balanced against each other.
“The possibility that qualified volunteer members of a constitutionally independent entity may ultimately reach different conclusions in good faith after substantial input is simply not grounds for invoking the powers of removal under the state Constitution,” Herrera wrote.
McNulty said Brewer’s disagreement with the way the six criteria were applied does not mean that they weren’t properly considered, and does not constitute “gross misconduct” by the IRC, as the governor alleged. She denied the allegation put forth by Brewer, as well as many other Republicans, that the IRC elevated competitiveness above the other five criteria when crafting the proposed 9th Congressional District.
She also said the oft-repeated allegations that the commission did not respect communities of interest, one of the six criteria, are misguided.
“The term ‘communities of interest’ is the most misunderstood and incorrectly applied of the constitutional criteria,” she wrote. “Respecting communities of interest to the extent practicable, as required under the Constitution, does not necessitate demonstrating, for example, that the San Tan Valley must have something in common with Kingman.”
McNulty’s comments were a reference to the proposed 4th Congressional District, which covers the state’s western border and stretches through Yavapai County and wraps around the eastern side of the Phoenix metro area. The district was one of three congressional districts that Brewer said did not meet constitutional criteria.
The pair disputed Brewer’s allegations that the commissioners were refusing to cooperate with an investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The Democrats said they are entitled to legal representation, and noted that a Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Friday disqualified Horne from the investigation due to a conflict of interest.
“If commissioners are defenseless in the face of groundless, politically motivated and/or conflict-laden personal attacks, the AIRC could not function,” McNulty wrote.
Both Democrats said they did not have any conversations with other commissioners outside of public meetings to discuss a contract for Strategic Telemetry, the mapping consultant the IRC hired. Those accusations, which stem from comments made by Republican commissioners Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz, only involve independent Chairwoman Colleen Mathis.
Herrera also said Brewer unilaterally imposed an “unusually short time frame” on the commissioners for them to respond to her Oct. 26 letter. IRC attorney Mary O’Grady made a similar argument in her collective response for the commission. Brewer set Monday morning as the response for the commissioners’ response.
See all the responses from the redistricting commission:
IRC attorney Mary O’Grady’s response
Chairwoman Colleen Mathis’ response
Republican commissioner Scott Freeman’s response
Republican commissioner Richard Stertz’ response
Democratic commissioner José Herrera’s response
Democratic commissioner Linda McNulty’s response