11/01/2011 07:09 pm ET | Updated Jan 01, 2012

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Threatens To Impeach Redistricting Commissioners [UPDATED]

UPDATE: The Arizona Senate voted 21-6 Tuesday to remove Colleen Coyle Mathis from her position as chairwoman of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Arizona Republic reports.


WASHINGTON -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer may call the state Legislature into a special session as soon as Tuesday to impeach one or more members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

In a Saturday letter to Collen Mathis, chair of the commission, Brewer expressed her concerns over the proposed redistricting map. The Republican governor wrote that the draft map "does a disservice to Arizona because it fails to recognize the important and distinct rural population in Arizona and the respective communities of interest."

Brewer criticized the level of emphasis on creating competitive districts. "I believe the [commission] also violated the Arizona Constitution by elevating 'competitiveness' above the other goals, especially in relation to the proposed District 9 and the other districts in Maricopa County," she wrote.

Arizona picked up one seat in Congress following the 2010 Census, giving it nine congressional districts. The commission drew a map in which four districts are heavily Republican, two are heavily Democratic, and three are competitive. Currently, there are five Republicans and three Democrats in Arizona's congressional delegation.

The potential loss of Republican seats also arises in the redrawing of state senate districts. Twenty-one of the 30 seats are now considered safe for Republicans, a number that would be lowered to 17 under redistricting.

The Arizona Constitution allows the removal of a redistricting commissioner by the request of the governor and two-thirds consent of the state senate for "substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct of office, or inability to discharge the duties of office."

Jose Herrera, vice chair and one of two Democrats on the five-member commission, responded to Brewer's claim that they have acted improperly.

"This commission has fully studied and complied with each of the unique constitutional mandates applicable to the commission," Herrera wrote in a letter to the governor. "[The commission] has prepared in good faith and put forth for public comment draft maps that are fully compliant with Constitutional requirements."

Stu Robinson, public information officer for the commission, told The Huffington Post, "Whatever you think of what they've done, to say that it amounts to a 'substantial neglect of duty' or 'gross misconduct in office' is a bit of a stretch."

The Arizona Democratic Party sent out a press release calling the accusations partisan overreach and criticizing Brewer for getting involved. "Governor Brewer's power grab is a clear abuse of the powers of her office," said Andrei Cherny, party chair, in a statement. "The voters created the Independent Redistricting Commission to keep politicians away from these decisions and so people could have a voice. The volunteer commissioners have drawn maps with bipartisan support that make small steps in giving independents more of a say. Their only crime is not kowtowing to Republican leaders."

An attorney for the commission, Mary O'Grady, vowed to sue Brewer if she tried to impeach the commissioners. In a letter to the governor, O'Grady wrote, "The commission itself is a constitutional entity charged to do a difficult, controversial job independent of the state's political structure. Its independence must be respected and defended."

According to David Schapira, the Arizona state senate's minority leader and a Democrat, the governor may not have the constitutional power to call a special session of the state Legislature at the moment. Brewer is in New York, he said, and she must be present in the state to make such a call.

Brewer's office did not immediately return a request for comment.