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Mathis proposes congressional ‘combo map;’ Republicans object

Commission chair Colleen Mathis, middle, pours over possible congressional redistricting maps as she is flanked by commissioners Linda McNulty, left, and commission vice chair, Scott Freeman during an Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meeting Monday, Oct. 3, 2011, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Chairwoman Colleen Mathis introduced a congressional map on Friday that combined changes proposed by Democratic and Republican commissioners.

The “combo map” made changes to the Tucson-based 2nd Congressional District – which would take in the eastern half of Cochise County – and would remove the rural portions of the 8th Congressional District in the southwest Valley.

The plan would also move Fountain Hills and Oak Creek out of the 4th Congressional District.

But the two Republican commissioners didn’t view the map as much of a compromise. Commissioner Richard Stertz, who phoned into the meeting, objected to Mathis’ decision to keep Marana, Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke in the sprawling rural 1st Congressional District instead of moving them into the Tucson-based district.

Stertz said he made that change on his map, which he deemed a compromise from an earlier proposal he made, to satisfy numerous complaints the IRC heard from residents of the area.

“We’ll have a lively discussion about this on Monday,” Stertz said.

GOP Commissioner Scott Freeman’s objections went deeper. He said the map wasn’t a compromise because it left intact the 9th Congressional District, a Tempe and central Phoenix-based district. Stertz’s earlier proposal eliminated the district entirely.

The two Republicans have repeatedly alleged that CD9 splits up communities and favors competitiveness to the detriment of the other redistricting criteria in the Arizona Constitution. Freeman also said the rest of the congressional map “falls on its knees” for the sake of CD9.

“I’ve learned a number of things serving on this commission,” Freeman said. “In terms of what the Constitution means it appears to mean whatever the Democrats say it means. That’s what I’ve learned.”

Freeman accused Democrats and Mathis, an independent, of playing up insincere objections to the maps so they can claim they are compromising with the Republicans. He asked if the other commissioners were compromising when they chose the IRC’s legal counsel and mapping consultant over the objections of the two Republicans.

“To me it means I get nothing they want, they get everything they want. They say they didn’t get everything they want … so they can have their cake and eat it too,” Freeman said. “They say they’ve compromised and pat themselves on the back and get it all.”

Democratic Commissioner Linda McNulty defended CD9, a flashpoint of GOP criticism. She said communities in the district largely have common economic, cultural and demographic ties.

Mathis said she liked that both the McNulty and Stertz proposals kept Cochise County whole, but said she preferred McNulty’s proposal because it reduced the massive size of CD1.

“It’s reduced that distance from not going all the way down to the border the way it does in the Stertz version,” Mathis said of McNulty’s proposal for CD1, which removes Cochise County from the district.

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