Legislative Democrats in Arizona are criticizing Gov. Jan Brewer for leaving the state shortly after calling the state Senate into special session to oust the chairwoman of the independent congressional redistricting commission this week.
Brewer has been traveling the country promoting her new book, "Scorpions for Breakfast," in which she discusses her work on the state's controversial immigration law. The book came out Tuesday -- the same day she called the Republican-led Senate into session to dismiss Colleen Coyle Mathis as the redistricting chairwoman. Brewer left Phoenix for New York for a Wednesday morning appearance on the "Today Show," leaving the state's acting governor to sign paperwork formally dismissing Mathis after the Senate vote.
Brewer took the steps to dismiss Mathis, saying the redistricting commission did not follow the state constitution in drawing a new map, a charge Democrats dismiss, countering that Brewer and the Senate's action are really a partisan power grab. Mathis is not commenting on her dismissal, but her attorney said she plans to fight the action.
"When you hear a governor declare a constitutional crisis and proceed on a book tour instead of staying in the state to deal with the constitutional crisis, it's a problem," said state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D-Tempe). "She appears on Greta Van Susteren. She is promoting her book and is making a name for herself."
Brewer's travel in recent weeks has taken her all over the country, including a recent stop in Huntsville, Ala. where she endorsed Alabama's new immigration law. Brewer also attended the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas in October. According to the Harper Collins website, Brewer is scheduled to appear at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California next week to promote the book.
"She's governor when she chooses to be -- she is more worried about promoting her book," state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) told HuffPost. "Jan Brewer is governor in abstentia at this point."
Brewer's spokesman, Matthew Benson, defended the governor's travel and said that she has continued running the state government while traveling the country, including taking part in decisions leading up to the Mathis dismissal.
"The governor has been on the phone with her staff and legislative leaders throughout the process," he said. "She's anything but disengaged."
Benson said he could not quantify how often Brewer has left Arizona. He said the trips are not paid for by taxpayers and any staff traveling with the governor are not having their travel paid for by the state. He did not report how many staff members travel with Brewer. Benson did say that the state pays for Brewer's security detail, which is mandated by state law.
Under the Arizona constitution, Secretary of State Ken Bennett becomes acting governor when Brewer leaves the state, including when Brewer left on Tuesday. Bennett signed Mathis' dismissal letter as acting governor, noting it was on Brewer's behalf. Bennett was named to the post in 2009 when Brewer vacated the secretary of state's office to succeed former Gov. Janet Napolitano. Bennett won a full term in 2010.
Benson said Brewer is likely to continue her national travel."She's a national figure and is frequently asked to speak to groups around the country," he said.