Brewer says draft redistricting map favors Democrats - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Brewer says draft redistricting map favors Democrats

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Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 5:41 pm | Updated: 1:45 pm, Tue Jan 3, 2012.

Gov. Jan Brewer blasted a draft redistricting map that virtually guarantees at least four of the state's nine congressional districts to Republicans like her and makes three others competitive.

"It's like thievery," Brewer told Capitol Media Services. "It's certainly very political. It's absolutely egregious as far as I'm concerned in reference to how they adopted these maps."

Brewer is out of state, slated to speak later today to the annual Governor's Dinner of the Arkansas Republican Party. But she said she got a chance to look at the draft maps, adopted Monday night by the Independent Redistricting Commission, before she left Phoenix.

The governor did not dispute that the analysis of voting patterns and party registration suggests that four of the districts are likely to be Republican strongholds.

Two other districts - one running from midtown Tucson to Yuma and the other in southwest Phoenix - are considered strongly Democrat. Both also are considered "majority-minority" districts, with sufficient numbers of Hispanics to ensure that a Latino can get elected.

That leaves three competitive districts, where the margin of difference between voters is close enough so that a candidate from either party could win.

Brewer, however, was undeterred by those numbers.

"It's obvious how it's favoring the Democrats," she said without providing specifics. "It's absolutely blatant."

The current makeup of the state's congressional delegation is five Republicans and three Democrats. Two years ago, after the election of Barack Obama, there was a 5-3 split the other way.

And the latest figures from the Secretary of State's Office show 35.5 percent of registered voters are Republicans, with 31.1 percent Democrats and the balance independents or affiliated with other minor parties.

Brewer, however, said the IRC map ignores what she sees as the political reality.

"Arizona is a red state," she said.

The one incumbent with the biggest complaint is Ben Quayle.

The son of the former vice president was elected last year after winning the right to represent the GOP after incumbent John Shadegg retired. His current district is heavily Republican.

But the new map puts his house in one of the competitive districts.

Federal law does not require candidates to live in their own districts. But any bid to get elected from another district is fraught with political problems of being called a carpetbagger.

Quayle, in a prepared statement, said he shares the governor's "serious concerns" about whether the maps fairly represent all Arizonans.

"The IRC was supposed to take politics out of the redistricting process, but that obviously did not happen," he said. "This gerrymandered map was drawn with an undeniable partisan purpose."

Some of the negative reaction appears to have been engendered by national political commentary.

For example, Politico wrote that the map hurts freshman GOP incumbent Paul Gosar because his largely rural northern Arizona district is being expanded to include "the Democratic-leaning Tucson suburbs." Those "suburbs," however, include the largely Republican areas of Marana, Oro Valley and Tortolita, areas currently represented in the Legislature by Republicans.

Brewer, however, said her assessment is not based on the analysis of others.

"No one needed to tell me," she said. "I could look at the map and see very clearly what they have done, and it is wrong. And I don't believe that's what the people of Arizona expected when they voted to pass the Independent Redistricting Commission."

But the governor made it clear that her belief Arizonans will see bias is limited to one side of the political spectrum.

"I think the majority of Republicans won't like it," she said. "And I think the Democrats are dancing on what they'd like to believe would be our grave. But we are not going to take this sitting down. We're going to fight it."

Jeff Flake, another Republican member of the state's congressional delegation, acknowledged that commission members did make a push to create several competitive districts. But Flake, who is not affected because he is running for the U.S. Senate, said that does not make it right.

"The IRC seems to have sacrificed communities of interest for competitiveness," he said in a prepared statement. "While that might make partisans happy, it ignores the law."

Prior to 2000, state lawmakers drew the lines for their own districts and congressional seats. That year voters approved a constitutional plan to give the power to the commission whose members include two people named by top elected Democrats and two by top Republicans. Those four, in turn, choose an independent as chair.

This is not the last word. The public will have 30 days to comment before the commission adopts a final plan.

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