Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Arizona Republicans impeach redistricting commissioner….

byDavid Nir

Reposted from Daily Kos Elections by David Nir

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Leading Off:• AZ Redistricting: Wow. Just wow. With the support of Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona Republicans went completely nuclear and voted last night to impeach Colleen Mathis, the independent member of the state’s redistricting commission. (For the complete background to this saga, click here.) It’s not clear where we go from here now: Mathis’s attorney has all but vowed to fight this action in court, and though the vote is over, Democrats may still move ahead with recalls of Republican state senators who supported Mathis’s removal. As for the redistricting process itself, if a legal challenge to this vote is unsuccessful, Mathis would be replaced by another independent commissioner, but it’s also possible the whole thing could wind up in court. We’re very much in uncharted territory, but one thing we know for certain is that this is a nakedly partisan power grab by Republicans—and that’s exactly the kind of thing we should always expect from them.

Senate:

• ME-Sen: Some pretty big improvement for GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe. In March of this year, only 33% of Maine Republicans supported her for re-election, while 58% said they preferred Republican Jesus (aka “somebody more conservative”). Those numbers have recovered considerably and now stand at 46-47. And in actual head-to-heads with the two teabaggish Some Dudes running in the GOP primary, Snowe leads 62% versus 10% for Scott D’Amboise and 7% for Andrew Ian Dodge. Big bummer, I have to say.

• ND-Sen: Looks like Democrats are about to get their huckleberry: Politico’s Dave Catanese reports that former Dem AG Heidi Heitkamp “is telling Democrats she will run for the state’s open Senate seat and is expected to make a formal announcement this month.”

• OH-Sen: Either this has become some kind of performance art, or Josh Mandel is paving the way for future candidates to violate federal campaign finance regulations. The Republican state treasurer was supposed to file a mandatory personal financial disclosure back in May. He never did so, and after months of trying to dick the issue and make excuses, his campaign finally said they’d submit the form in October. Well, it’s November now, and still nothing. The most pathetic part is how toothless the FEC’s rules are. Filing a late disclosure gets you a $200 fine—that’s it. At least Mandel has taken a regular pounding in the media for this nonsense.

Gubernatorial:

• KY-Gov: Dave Weigel calls it Aqua Krishna. Steve Beshear’s campaign calls it “pathetic and desperate.” They’re both right. Click the link to see just how sad the dying embers of GOPer David Williams’s campaign have become.

And speaking of David Williams, here’s another last-ditch ad from his campaign that features someone not named David Williams. The other day, it was his running mate, theRusso-nautically mustachioed Richie Farmer. Now, it’s his much more appealing wife—but no question that it’s too little, too late.

House:

• FL-14: “Chauncey Goss hopes to succeed Cornelius McGillicuddy IV” sounds like a line out of a Trollope novel, but it’s actually something happening in 21st century Florida. As expected, Goss (son of ex-Rep. Porter Goss) has decided to seek the GOP nomination for the open seat left behind by Connie Mack, who is now rather improbably running for Senate.

• IL-12: Surprising news: Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination to succeed Rep. Jerry Costello, who is retiring at the end of this term. Callis had sounded like a likely candidate last week, but in the interim, former St. Clair County Regional Superintendent of Schools Brad Harriman jumped into the race and also secured the backing of his county’s Democratic Party organization.

• MD-06: Dem state Sen. Rob Garagiola officially launched his campaign for the redrawn (and much bluer) 6th District seat on Tuesday—an entirely expected move, since he began rolling out endorsements last week even before formally announcing his bid. By the way, this bit of color from the Baltimore Sun piece caught my eye:

During a four-stop swing through the district, Garagiola was shadowed by Robin Ficker, an attorney, former state lawmaker and sports heckler who is also running for the seat. The Republican held a tall two-by-four with a half dozen red signs hanging from it that read: “No gas tax hike.”

That is quite a thing to be known for, wouldn’t you say?

• ME-02, ME-01: Republican state Senate President Kevin Raye, who first said he was considering a congressional run against 2nd CD Rep. Mike Michaud back in July, has now formed an exploratory committee. Raye didn’t offer a timetable for making a final decision, but he is term-limited in his current post, so he has an incentive to try for this race.

In the state’s other congressional district, Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney has beencontemplating a House bid since mid-summer as well and now says he’ll make up his mind “soon after Thanksgiving,” in the Portland Press Herald’s words. Courtney, who also faces term limits, would be challenging Dem Rep. Chellie Pingree, but says he thinks he’d be a “long shot” if he ran.

• MI-05: Former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee, a nephew of retiring Rep. Dale Kildee, formally launched his campaign to succeed his uncle on Tuesday. The younger Kildee’s name surfaced the moment the elder announced this term would be his last, and he’d also already started raising money ($132K last quarter), so this move was widely expected.

• ND-AL: Republican Kevin Cramer just filed paperwork to run for North Dakota’s open House seat, becoming the second member of the state’s Public Service Commissioner to do so. Fellow commissioner Brian Kalk is already seeking the GOP nomination, as is state Rep. Bette Grande. Former state Rep. Pam Gulleson is running for the Democrats.

• NV-01: Ex-Rep. Dina Titus, who served a single term before losing to GOP freshman Joe Heck last year, will reportedly seek a comeback bid in the redrawn 1st CD rather than in Heck’s 3rd District. Titus has been gearing up for a run for a long time (at least since May), and this move was expected, since the new court-drawn map places her home in the incumbent-less 1st District, which is also much bluer than the 3rd. (Rep. Shelley Berkley is running for Senate.) This sets up a showdown in the Democratic primary between Titus and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who is Hispanic. That’s notable because the new seat is about 43% Hispanic, and presumably the Democratic electorate is even moreso.

Other Races:

• VA Lege: You usually know him for his special election roundups, but now Johnny Longtorso also brings us his race ratings for the Virginia legislature, where all seats are up for grabs next week. Using the traditional seven-point scale, Johnny finds a dozen potentially competitive races in the Dem-held Senate, where control of the body is in the balance. Click the link for his complete run-down.

Grab Bag:

• Polltopia: PPP has opened up voting on user-selected idea for two final polls before next Tuesday’s elections. The choices are MS, IA-SD-18, OH, and KY. We’ve seen plenty of public polling on Ohio’s Issue 2 and Kentucky’s statewide races, but absolutely none on the Mississippi gubernatorial race and the Iowa special election (where control of the state Senate hangs in the balance). So I would strongly encourage you to vote for MS and IA.

Redistricting Roundup:

• MS Redistricting: On Monday, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower-court ruling which held that Mississippi must conduct its legislative elections this year using existing district lines, even though the legislature failed to pass a redistricting plan due to a split between the Dem-held House and Republican held-Senate. The NAACP had sued, saying the old lines constituted a one-person, one-vote violation since newer Census data became available earlier this year, but the courts were unmoved. New maps do need to get drawn at some point soon, though, and it’s possible that a second set of elections will be required next year. Crucially, Democratic control of the state House hangs in the balance next week, so the GOP might control the trifecta next year, which would allow them to run wild.

• OH Redistricting: This is making me sick to my stomach. Ohio Republicans are saying they are close to a deal with the Legislative Black Caucus over a revised congressional map that could pass the state House by a referendum-proof two-thirds margin. Former state Republican Party chair Bob Bennett, the GOP’s lead negotiator, says: “I think we are getting close,” Bennett said. “My job is pretty well completed.” According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Aaron Marshall, this is what things look like:

Bennett said Republicans are not willing to budge off a map that has 12 Republican-leaning districts and four Democratic districts, but are willing to make some concessions to Democrats.An alternative map being discussed apparently would draw black voters together in Toledo, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati, keeping communities of interest together. That would have the effect of making solidly Republican districts in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas slightly more competitive for Democratic candidates. It would also bump up by a few points the black voting-age population in a solidly Democratic-leaning district in Franklin County.

The LBC, however, claims that no agreement has been reached—but don’t get your hopes up, because they also say that “discussions are ongoing to achieve a workable map.”

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  1. Arizona redistricting chief ousted

    by Mary Jo Pitzl – Nov. 2, 2011 12:00 AM
    The Arizona Republic

    Gov. Jan Brewer and the GOP-controlled state Senate on Tuesday touched off legal and political battles as they took the unprecedented step of removing the chairwoman of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

    On a 21-6 party line vote, the Senate gave the Republican governor the two-thirds majority vote she needed to oust Colleen Coyle Mathis, citing “gross misconduct” in her role at the helm of the independent panel. The commission is in the midst of drawing new political boundaries for next year’s legislative and congressional races. As the Senate voted in early evening, commission attorneys left one court and rushed to the state Supreme Court to try to block the Senate’s action. They were too late to get immediate relief, but said they will petition the court today to allow Mathis to remain as commission chairwoman.

    “It’s my view that she is most certainly still the chairman,” said Paul Charlton, Mathis’ attorney.

    However, Senate officials and Brewer’s office said Mathis’ eight-month tenure as chairwoman ended once the Senate endorsed the governor’s action.

    The conflicting views will fuel a legal battle over the extent to which the five-member commission is independent.

    Brewer, who was in New York promoting her book, directed Secretary of State Ken Bennett to issue a letter on her behalf outlining the causes for Mathis’ removal. When the governor is out of state, the secretary of state is the acting governor.

    The letter cited Mathis’ failure to conduct commission meetings publicly, a reference to the ongoing controversy over whether the commission violated the state Open Meeting Law when it voted in June to hire a mapping consultant with Democratic ties.

    The governor also cited a failure to properly adjust the “grid map,” the starting point for drawing new maps, to account for all of the criteria required for new maps, as well as an overreliance on competitiveness as a factor in drawing new boundary lines.

    Mathis, as well as several other commissioners, earlier this week rejected those allegations and defended their actions as proper. Attorney General Tom Horne has an ongoing investigation into the Open Meeting Law allegation.

    Commission attorneys and Charlton argue that Brewer exceeded her authority, did not substantiate her grounds for removing the head of an independent panel and denied Mathis due process by not giving her a chance to respond to the decision to oust her.

    The issue polarized the already sharply divided Legislature, with Republicans defending the actions as a necessary brake on what they believe is a runaway commission and Democrats decrying it as a power grab by lawmakers unhappy with the draft political lines.

    “Don’t be misled,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert. “This is what the voters voted upon.”

    Voters 11 years ago approved Proposition 106, giving the independent panel the authority to do political redistricting rather than the Legislature.

    But the measure provides a role for the governor to seek removal of any commissioner whom she finds guilty of gross misconduct.

    The Arizona Constitution gives the independent panel the authority to do political redistricting, but provides a role for the governor to seek removal of any commissioner whom she finds guilty of “gross misconduct.” It also calls for the Senate to ratify the governor’s action.

    But Democrats said Republicans fueled the effort because they don’t like the draft maps the commission has produced, especially the proposed new congressional map.

    “What we have here is a witch hunt,” said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe. “It is a disgrace. We get it: You don’t like the maps. I don’t like the maps, either.”

    The draft maps particularly agitated Arizona’s GOP congressmen, who don’t like the fact that districts currently seen as “safe” Republican seats would become more competitive, and who feel lines were manipulated to favor incumbent Democrats. They pressured Brewer to also remove the panel’s two Democratic commissioners. However, the Senate could not muster the votes.

    The panel also has two Republican commissioners and Mathis, a registered independent.

    “There’s no question that members of the congressional delegation were upset,” said Matthew Benson, the governor’s spokesman, calling it “unfortunate” the governor could not sway the Senate to remove more members.

    The full Legislature also endorsed its formal comment on the commission’s draft plans, telling the panel its work is so flawed the process needs to start over. That vote passed on party-line votes.

    The Senate vote also could trigger political repercussions for some of the GOP senators who voted to back the governor’s action.

    The state Democratic Party said it intends to launch recall drives against four senators who have broken with the Senate’s heavily conservative bent and who represent urban districts with moderate voters.

    “This is the ultimate test of where they stand with Arizona voters,” said Luis Heredia, the party’s executive director.

    The party said it will target senators Rich Crandall of Mesa, Adam Driggs of Phoenix, John McComish of Phoenix and Michele Reagan of Scottsdale.

    The senators shrugged off the statement, with some joking it might be a relief to leave some of the tensions of the Senate.

    Work should start soon on replacing Mathis, barring a court order blocking the governor’s action.

    The state Commission on Appellate Court Appointments has 30 days to nominate three people who are registered independents as the new chairperson. The four remaining redistricting commissioners then have 14 days to pick one of the three.

    If the four can’t reach agreement, the choice falls to the 16-member appellate-court commission.

    Meanwhile, the commission can continue its work, which includes wrapping up work this week on a series of statewide hearings on the draft maps. After that, the commission can adjust the maps but without a chairperson to break what might be 2-2 ties, it could be hard to proceed.

    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2011/11/01/20111101arizona-redistricting-brewer-wants-chair-Mathis-removed.html#ixzz1cZLbBFt1

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