Early this morning, attorneys for the Democratic caucus filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments in an effort to remove two finalists to chair the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
Democrats also sought for a temporary restraining order to give a Democratic leader more time than what’s available under the rules to pick the next IRC member.
Democrats want to expel one of the finalists for having registered as a lobbyist with the Arizona Corporation Commission and the other for having hosted a rally for President Donald Trump.
Lawsuits are a feature – not a bug – of the redistricting process. Indeed, the last IRC also faced numerous lawsuits.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments sent a list of five independent names — one already withdrew and had to be replaced — this week.
The five independents are: Megan Carollo, a flower shop owner in Maricopa County; Thomas Loquvam, an attorney for EPCOR Utilities in Maricopa County; Erika Neuberg, a former psychologist in Maricopa County with political ties to both Republicans and Democrats; Gregory Teesdale, a businessman in Pima County; and, Robert Wilson, a gun store owner in Coconino County.
The Democrats want to strike Loquvam from the list for being a registered lobbyist with the Arizona Corporation Commission, something he addressed in his application and is required to do for his job at a public utility. He previously worked for Pinnacle West, the parent company of APS, and represented his company in Corporation Commission proceedings.
The Democrats also want Wilson removed because he hosted a Donald Trump rally in the parking lot of his gun store after he applied for the IRC position.
“What part of hosting a Trump rally, and Republican campaign events, makes anyone think Mr. Wilson will be impartial or fair?” House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez asked in a news release.
The Arizona Democratic Party also recently attacked the appellate court commission for picking Loquvam, Wilson and Neuberg.
The topic of lobbying became an important part of the appellate court commission’s process of narrowing down the list to 25. The commissioners, in fact, earlier removed an independent candidate and a Republican for being registered as paid lobbyists.
But both were registered as lobbyists with the Secretary of State – not at the Corporation Commission – and Loquvam’s lobbying activities at the Corporation Commission never came up during the vetting process.
The commission also sent a list of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans who the four caucus leaders of the legislature will get to select from. Those four partisan members for the IRC then select the independent chair.
Just yesterday, House Speaker Rusty Bowers named David Mehl, a Pima County Republican, as the first IRC member. The move shifts the pressure on Fernandez, who must make her pick – the second IRC member – with the next week. If she does not make her selection, she forfeits it and the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will pick the second IRC member.
The Democrats’ lawsuit wants that time crunch halted, calling Bowers’ decision “premature.”
In today’s press release, Fernandez and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley renewed attacks on Gov. Doug Ducey for “stacking” the commission.