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Gabrielle Giffords, Ben Quayle Face Competitive Elections After Arizona Redistricting

First Posted: 12/21/2011 3:00 pm Updated: 12/21/2011 6:11 pm

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) could face a tough fight to return to Washington after Arizona approved new congressional districts Tuesday night -- but so could two GOP incumbents.

In a vote along party lines, Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission gave final approval to the congressional maps Tuesday, topping off a political soap opera that has consumed Phoenix and set off a constitutional crisis in Arizona. Commission Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis, who was briefly removed by the state legislature at the behest of Gov. Jan Brewer (R) last month, sided with the commission's two Democratic members in approving the final map. Both Republican commissioners voted against the congressional map.

The final map -- which increases the state's congressional delegation from eight to nine -- includes four Republican-leaning districts, two Democratic-leaning districts and three toss-up districts. All three toss-up districts have been drawn to include the homes of three incumbents: Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Giffords.

Commission spokesman Stuart Robinson told HuffPost Wednesday that the commission did not review an address book when drawing the map. He cited the state constitution, which prohibits redistricting officials from drawing districts to protect or hurt incumbents.

The Republican-controlled state Senate had removed Mathis at the behest of Brewer and the state's Republican congressional delegation in early November, after a map draft came out that placed Quayle and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) in the same district. At the time Brewer had said that she was dismissing Mathis based on concerns that the commission had held too many secret meetings and did not follow state guidelines to draw compact districts that kept "communities of interest" together. Brewer said that the issues met the constitutional standards for "gross misconduct," grounds to dismiss Mathis.

Quayle and his mother, Marilyn, have both denied rumors that swept Arizona political circles that Marilyn Quayle had called Brewer to urge the governor to push for Mathis' removal.

Mathis appealed her dismissal to the state Supreme Court, which overturned Brewer's decision. In arguments before the Republican-dominated court, Brewer's attorney said that the governor could have dismissed Mathis for not liking Mathis' hair style. When Brewer asked the court for clarification in their decision, the court shot down the governor.

Quayle has not indicated if he will run for re-election in the new Phoenix-area district or move to a more Republican-favored district. Gosar has also not publicized his plans. Giffords, who is continuing recovery from an assassination attempt in January, has not announced if she will seek a fourth term. Giffords' husband Mark Kelly said that his wife would make a decision before the May filing deadline, and Washington Democrats recently hosted a fundraiser for a possible Giffords campaign.

The commission's decision late Tuesday came after reports in the last few days that the commission would likely not adopt a final map until after Christmas. But Mathis had said when she returned to her leadership of the group that she was shooting to adopt the final maps before the holiday. Robinson told HuffPost Wednesday that after the commission had worked most of Monday and Tuesday, it believed the maps were done.

In a statement Tuesday Mathis said the commission had tried for a consensus map.

"We had worked very hard to reach consensus on the map where possible, and it was also our consensus that it was time to move the process along," she said.

The commission also adopted new state legislative maps in a 3-2 vote that did not split along party lines. The maps are likely to favor continued Republican control of the legislature.

Robinson said that commission staffers would prepare the maps for submission to the U.S. Department of Justice in January. Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department must approve Arizona's congressional district maps.

UPDATE: 4:00 p.m. -- Quayle's spokesman Richard Cullen confirmed that the first-term Republican has not made a final decision on which district he will run for re-election in.

"Congressman Quayle has not made any final decision about his plans for the 2012 election," Cullen said. "Throughout this process Mr. Quayle has consistently maintained that at the end of the day that he is going to run in the district that represents the majority of his current constituency."

Cullen's comments could indicate a potential race for Quayle in the more Republican sixth district, which also encompasses more of his old district. Schweikert could also end up seeking reelection in the sixth district.

Giffords' Washington office referred questions regarding the congresswoman's political future to Rodd McLeod, Giffords' former campaign manager in Tucson. Neither McLeod nor Gosar have responded to requests for comment.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to correctly reflect Quayle spokesman Richard Cullen's comment.
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