Records show Dem connections with redistricting commissioners, but incumbent knowledge denied

Gary Grado//March 26, 2013

Records show Dem connections with redistricting commissioners, but incumbent knowledge denied

Gary Grado//March 26, 2013

Democratic redistricting commissioner José Herrera listens in October of 2011 as the commission's legal counselors advise the commission on the legislative privilege that may be invoked to prevent commissioners from giving testimony under oath. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

A Democrat on the Independent Redistricting Commission and the party’s interim executive director each denied on the witness stand Tuesday insinuations they were part of a conspiracy to rig the state’s legislative district maps.

But newly released records also show Democratic candidates, party leaders and incumbent lawmakers were at least included in mapping strategy emails sent to Democratic commissioner José Herrera on his non-commission email account.

And phone records showed more of a connection between Arizona Democratic Party interim executive director D.J. Quinlan and Herrera than he acknowledged in sworn depositions just weeks ago.

The testimony from Herrera and Quinlan, who was the party’s election director at the time, came in the second day of a weeklong trial in which the commission is defending itself against allegations it discriminated against Republican voters.

Even though Herrera downplayed his relationship with Quinlan, phone records produced by Quinlan’s attorney show they spoke 16 times on the phone from October to December. Quinlan, who was the party’s elections director at the time, also acknowledged he had addresses of incumbents on file in mapping software on his computer, but said he didn’t share them with anyone else.  That included Democratic Commissioner Linda McNulty, whom he met with and spoke on the phone with several times over the same period.

The plaintiffs contend – and Democrats have denied — that Democrats tried to draw district boundaries to favor incumbents in their party.

Plaintiffs had called Herrera to the stand to discredit him and provide the three-judge panel overseeing the trial with one more dot to connect in the plaintiff’s case that Dems colluded with their party-mates on the commission and with chairwoman Colleen Mathis in order to rig the maps in their favor. In Quinlan’s testimony, he acknowledged he frequently met with Dem Commissioner Linda McNulty to discuss LD 8 and he also admitted he had incumbent addresses on his mapping software, but he said he didn’t share the information with McNulty.

If the plaintiffs in the lawsuit prevail, then the legislative maps could be overturned.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Liburdi  grilled Herrera for 90 minutes trying to impeach testimony from his deposition in which he implied he barely knew Quinlan.   Liburdi also tried to show that Herrera gave mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry high marks in a bidding process with the sole purpose of getting the company, which had worked for several Democrat candidates and causes, hired over another one with good credentials and Republican ties.

Liburdi showed Herrera his deposition in which he said Quinlan “might have approached me” at meetings and couldn’t recall whether they had ever spoken on the phone.

Herrera said on the witness stand Tuesday that he still didn’t recall whether they had any phone conversations and he was unsure if they even had each other’s phone numbers.

Liburdi then produced the phone records.

“Based on the records, I did have conversations,” Herrera said. But he said he couldn’t recall the nature of the conversations.

Herrera had also testified in deposition that had a special email account for commission business and didn’t use any of his other ones for his duties on the IRC.

Liburdi then produced an email sent to Herrera’s work account from the Democratic Party executive  director at the time, Luis Heredia, and copied to Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, former Sen. David Schapira, D-Tempe, and former Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny. The email gave Herrera advice on how to use voter registration rolls and an idea from Quinlan on creating competitive districts.

Defense attorney Colin Campbell chose not to cross examine Herrera.

Although the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, David Cantelme, suggested throughout trial Monday that Democratic commissioners and Strategic Telemetry used incumbents’ residences to guide its work, defense attorneys came right out and asked on Tuesday.

Quinlan said under cross examination he never gave McNulty the addresses, and Strategic Telemetry data analyst Willie Desmond said he didn’t have them.

“We took our responsibility working for the independent commission very seriously,” Desmond said. “We really worked hard to make sure we were as fair to the process as possible.”