Colleen Coyle Mathis, Ousted Arizona Redistricting Chief, Remains Silent But Plans Court Challenge
The recently ousted chairwoman of Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission is remaining silent as she plans a challenge to the state Senate decision.
The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate voted Tuesday to unseat Colleen Coyle Mathis as the commission's chair. Their action followed the recommendation of Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who said she found that the state's new congressional districts did not meet standards set by the state constitution. Democrats said that Brewer was making a political power play to gain more seats for Republicans.
Mathis, a registered independent, was elected to the chair's post earlier this year by the bipartisan redistricting commission. Her attorney, Paul Charlton, told The Huffington Post that Mathis was not commenting at this time.
"She doesn't and hasn't," Charlton said of Mathis' giving interviews. "There will be a legal challenge. We think the governor and legislature improperly sought to remove Ms. Mathis. It was without the normal due process."
Charlton said the court challenge would occur "very soon" but declined to give a firm timeline.
On Tuesday, Brewer advised Mathis of her decision to remove her and called the Senate into special session to confirm the decision. Questions remain over whether Mathis stays in office pending the legal challenge.
Charlton said he believes his client remains the commission's chairwoman pending the court decision. Stuart Robinson, the commission's spokesman, said the agency was unclear whether Mathis was still in charge.
"It depends on which lawyer you ask," Robinson said. "We are in uncharted territory. It is hard to tell. We are waiting for that to be clarified."
Arizona gained one congressional seat following the 2010 Census. The commission's map includes four Republican-leaning seats, two Democratic-leaning seats and three toss-up seats. The current delegation has five Republicans and three Democrats.
Under Arizona law, the bipartisan commission chooses an independent to serve as chair, following an application process. Mathis, a hospital administrator from Tucson, made two small donations to Democratic campaigns in 2010, according to state records. She is listed as donating $100 to Andrei Cherny's unsuccessful bid for state treasurer and $10 to the Arizona List PAC, a group that supports pro-choice Democratic women in Arizona. Cherny now heads the Arizona Democratic Party.
Mathis' husband, Christopher, also donated $85 to the Arizona List PAC, along with $100 to Democratic state Rep. Nancy Young Wright in 2010. According to published reports, Christopher Mathis is a registered Democrat and former Republican. On his LinkedIn page, he notes he spent two years as an aide to former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) in the 1990s.
Federal Election Commission records show that Christopher Mathis has donated to both Republicans and Democrats, including $500 to Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-Ariz.) in 2010, $250 to former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) in 1998 and $2,000 to Sen. John McCain (R) during the 2000 presidential campaign. The FEC reports that the McCain campaign refunded $1,000 to Mathis.
While Mathis remains silent, state and national Democrats have been condemning the state Senate's decision to remove her. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a Washington-based group dedicated to electing Democrats to state legislative seats, released a statement Tuesday describing the Republicans' actions as a "naked power play" and said the party had "brazenly usurped the redistricting process."
"Yesterday we saw the legislature and governor ramrod through a political power grab that thwarted the will of the voters," state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell told HuffPost. "They did it behind closed doors and cut back-room deals. It's partisanship at its very worst."
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Gov. Jan Brewer called the Arizona Senate into special session and the Senate voted to unseat Colleen Coyle Mathis on Monday. The events occurred on Tuesday, Nov. 1.