Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Scores Partial Win in Bid To Rig Redistricting

The Arizona Supreme Court today handed state Senate President Russell Pearce a partial win in his bid to rig the redistricting process that will affect Sand Land politics for the next 10 years.

In an order just issued by Vice Chief Justice Andrew Hurwitz, the court agreed with Pearce and state House Speaker Kirk Adams that two of the nominees to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission are not qualified because they each hold a "public office," and so are barred by statute. (You can read the order, here.)

In this case, nominees Mark Schnepf and Stephen Sossaman (both Republicans) are "directors of irrigation districts," and so must be replaced by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments by two other nominees, Hurwitz stated in his order.

However, Pearce failed in bumping off independent nominee Paul Bender, dean emeritus of ASU's law school, and a persistent critic of Pearce's legal efforts at ethnic cleansing, such as Sand Land's breathing-while-brown law SB 1070 and the proposal to undermine the birthright citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The court found that Bender is not ineligible to be a nominee just because he's an appointed tribal court judge, as Pearce and Adams have contended.

Some speculate that Bender was Pearce's true target, and the complaints about the GOP nominees were simply cover for a little payback directed at Bender.

If so, Pearce's "victory" is a Pyrrhic one. But if the appointments commission nominates wingnut and erstwhile Jesse Kelly supporter Christopher Gleason as one of the replacements, either Pearce or Adams will be able to pick a hard-right candidate for a redistricting post. (Kelly challenged Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in her run for reelection last year, and lost.)

Basically, the appointments commission submits a list of 25 nominees: 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and five indies. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle get to pick two from the list and the resulting four members pick an independent to chair the redistricting effort.

The Republican leadership usually picks Republicans, the Dems usually pick Dems. 

But as we all know, there are Republicans, and then there are wingnut Republicans.

Schnepf and Sossaman had already withdrawn their names in reaction to the Pearce-Adams quibbles. 

But in a special meeting held in late December, the appointments commission reacted harshly to Pearce and Adams interjecting themselves into what's supposed to be a process free of such partisanship. Members voted not to accept the resignations of Schnepf and Sossaman, and to stick to their original list.

So Pearce and Adams sued. Oral arguments were heard yesterday at the Arizona Supreme Court. Craig McDermott has a pretty good rundown of the arguments on the Blog for Arizona.com.

Pearce has successfully interfered with the process in bid to bully it. What he's achieved by doing so remains to be seen.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons

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