The best defense is a good offense. I’ve heard that all my life, but have never seen it more cleverly demonstrated than in Arizona’s current redistricting process. The governor’s latest attempt to de-rail the independent redistricting process elevates this axiom to a new high (or low).
The governor alleges that the draft maps are “thievery” and “absolutely egregious” because they unfairly favor Democrats. Aside from the obvious — that the Constitution requires an “independent” redistricting process, free from political interference from the governor, the Legislature or any political party — let’s look at the merits of the governor’s claim.
Republicans make up 35.5 percent of voters in Arizona. Democrats represent 31.1 percent of voters. The remaining 33.4 percent comprises independents or members of minority parties. Compare these numbers to the breakdown of the proposed districts. The proposed congressional map is 45 percent (four of nine) “safe” Republican districts; 22 percent (two of nine) “safe” Democratic districts and 33 percent (three of nine) competitive districts.
The proposed legislative districts map even further benefits Republicans. Fifty-seven percent (17 of 30) of the legislative districts favor Republicans; 40 percent (12 of 30) favor Democrats and only one district (representing 3 percent) is fairly equally split. Independents are not favored in any district.
If anyone should be complaining, it should be independents — not Republicans. Yet, the entire Republican congressional delegation, the governor and a host of other Republican state elected officials have manufactured an indignant response to the draft maps and against individual members of the Redistricting Commission. So why aggressively pursue a non-existent slight?
The answer is that a good offense is easier and more effective than the best defense. By vociferously attacking the volunteer commissioners and the maps, Republicans do not have to defend their true agenda:
• Intimidate commissioners into even further skewing the maps in favor of Republican incumbents and candidates, and against truly competitive districts. If intimidation doesn’t work, remove those commissioners who do not succumb.
• Keep as many districts as possible safe for Republicans so it is almost impossible for a minority party or an independent candidate to win.
• Create doubt and confusion about the redistricting process in the minds of voters, so that it can be returned to the Legislature, where legislators can more easily control the district boundaries in their favor. (A change in the current process would require voter approval).
• Divert attention from the fact that our economy and our state are still in a tailspin, with no real plans in place to create jobs, save education or rebuild Arizona’s national image.
Yes, Republican leaders have perfected the “good offense” strategy. Too bad their win will be a loss for the people of Arizona.
— Lucia Fakonas Howard is a Phoenix attorney.