Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is huddling with her inner circle in an attempt to regroup after the state Supreme Court rejected her attempt to oust the head of the state's independent redistricting commission. Observers are already saying that there is a possibility of a "Groundhog Day" scenario on the horizon, as the governor may not let the court's decision derail her move to replace the chairwoman and redraw district lines.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Thursday evening that Brewer had not followed the state constitution when she and the state Senate removed Colleen Coyle Mathis as the redistricting chairwoman. In a move attacked by Arizona Democrats, Brewer and the Senate unseated Mathis on Nov. 2 saying that she had allowed the commission to have too many secret meetings and had not followed constitutional standards in developing a draft map of congressional districts. The court said that Brewer did not lay out a constitutionally valid argument in her dismissal of Mathis.
While the court did reinstate Mathis, the justices also provided Brewer the opportunity to attempt to remove Mathis from the chairmanship again. Sources within Arizona had told The Huffington Post it was expected that the panel would provide this sort of blueprint for Brewer if she wanted to try to remove Mathis again.
Brewer's spokesman, Matthew Benson, said that the governor is in the process of discussing the Mathis issues with her top aides and state legislative leaders.
"Governor Brewer has not yet decided on her next course of action," Benson said.
Arizona political observers are bracing for Brewer to decide what will happen next in the soap opera that has overtaken state government. David Berman, a senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at Arizona State Univeristy, said he wouldn't be surprised if Brewer were to try to oust Mathis again, using a new set of standards.
At the same time, he said that if Brewer wanted to attempt to delay final passage of new maps for congressional and legislative districts, the state would in for a real-life version of the 1993 Bill Murray comedy "Groundhog Day."
"It could be a scenario of she keeps firing her, and the court rejects it," Berman said. "It would delay things."
Benson did not say if Brewer is considering this.
Berman suggested that Brewer's best course of action would be to allow the commission to adopt the new maps and then bring a court challenge. Brewer's decision came in response to draft maps that upset the state's Republican congressional delegation, which lobbied Brewer to oust Mathis. The drafts created four Republican-leaning districts, two Democrat-leaning districts and three toss-up districts. The draft also put Republican Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert into the same district.
Berman expects Mathis to move fast with her return to the commission to adopt final maps, with the chance of a second firing lurking in the background.
"It will be whoever acts the quickest will be on top," Berman said.
Stuart Robinson, the commission's spokesman, said commission staff are consulting with Mathis on the next course of action to schedule the next meeting. The commission needs to provide 48 hours notice of any meeting and Robinson said next week's Thanksgiving holiday complicates scheduling. According to Robinson, the commission will likely weigh public comments on the draft maps before a final vote.
Mathis did not return messages left at her Tucson office and home.
State Democrats are urging Brewer to drop the issue.
"I would hope that the governor and Republican leadership have learned their lesson," said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix). "The public is sick of self-serving politicians. Gov. Brewer should go back to selling her book."
Berman doesn't think Campbell will get his wish soon.
"The governor is very tough and very stubborn," he said. "She doesn't go down easily."
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