The Arizona Supreme Court dealt Republican Gov. Jan Brewer a blow Thursday, overturning her decision to oust the chairwoman of the state's independent redistricting commission.
Brewer removed Mathis on Nov. 2, with the consent of the Republican-controlled Senate, for holding too many secret meetings and for drafting a map that Brewer said did not meet guidelines for compact districts and keeping together "communities of interest."
In court papers, Brewer had argued that Mathis did not use a grid format, as specified in the state constitution, for creating the districts. In addition, Brewer argued that Mathis, a registered independent from Tucson, did not disclose her husband's involvement in the campaign of a Democratic state legislator in her application for the commission.
Brewer's spokesman said it is possible that the governor could seek Mathis' removal at a future date.
"The governor strongly disagrees with the decision," spokesman Matthew Benson said.
He said the governor, who was in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, will meet with legislative leaders to consider options. He said the court's order, which he described as "sparse," potentially leaves the door open for the governor to return with a more-specific letter spelling out reasons for removal.
Brewer made the move, which many Democrats had said was a "naked power play," after the state's Republican congressional delegation had lobbied against the draft map released by the redistricting commission. The draft map contained four Republican leaning seats, two Democratic leaning seats and three toss-up seats.
Arizona Democrats had said that Brewer made the decision following a call from Marilyn Quayle, the wife of former Vice President Dan Quayle and mother of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), a charge that Mrs. Quayle has denied. Ben Quayle and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) were both placed in the same district in the draft map.
The court's decision was rumored in the days preceding the decision, which came after oral arguments Thursday afternoon in Phoenix. Several sources told The Huffington Post that they expected the court to reinstate Mathis, but also suggested that it would be possible for Brewer to remove her in the future with more specific charges.
Arizona Democrats are cheering the court's decision.
"I was pleased with the order of the court," said State Rep. Matt Heinz (D-Tucson), who was in the courtroom for Thursday's hearing. "I believe it continues the independence of this constitutional branch of government, the independent commission. The attempt of the Republican caucus to hijack the independence of this commission was ghastly."
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