Hot day of partisan fighting ends in unlikely deal on Congress card

After a day of accusations, recriminations and partisan sniping, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission found its way to what appeared to be an unlikely consensus and paved the way for a possible unanimous vote on the final version of the congressional map that the state will use for the next decade.

The AIRC came to an agreement on where to draw the border between two congressional districts in Tucson on Tuesday evening after making a series of changes to make one of the districts more competitive, a prerequisite for support from Democratic commissioners .

Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner and Republican Commissioner David Mehl fought throughout the day, eventually agreeing on how to divide the 6th and 7th Congressional Districts in Tucson. The 6th Arrondissement is a competitive Republican-leaning district that covers the eastern part of Tucson and most of Southeastern Arizona, while the 7th Arrondissement is a predominantly Latin American Democratic stronghold designed to conform to the Voting Rights Act, stretching from west and south Tucson to Yuma, extending into the West Valley in Maricopa County.

After exchanging competing proposals earlier today, Lerner and Mehl struck a deal on Tuesday night for the border at Tucson that makes the 6th Arrondissement, on the east side of the line, more competitive. The Commission measure competitiveness using the distribution of votes and the final results of nine statewide races in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Based on these metrics, the District leans Republican by about 2.4% and Republicans have won six of the nine elections in the “basket” of races.

By the commission’s parameters, anything within a 7% spread is considered competitive and anything within 4% is considered highly competitive.

The map the commissioners ended their day with includes four safe Republican districts, two safe Democratic districts, and three competitive districts, two of which are considered highly competitive. One of the republican safe districts, the 2nd District based in northern Arizona, is barely outside the range that would be considered competitive.

Tucson’s new boundary runs along 1st Avenue between the Rillito River and Fort Lowell Road. Between Fort Lowell and Speedway, the border will be along Country Club Road, and from Speedway to Broadway Boulevard, the border will move east to Alvernon Way. From there, the 7th Arrondissement juts east into Tucson between Broadway and Golf Links.

In addition, the 7th Arrondissement added the eastern half of Santa Cruz County and a slice of territory along the US-Mexico border that stretches east to encompass Bisbee and Douglas.

The Democratic and Republican commissioners also reached an agreement for changes in the 4th and 5th congressional districts of the East Valley. These new lines leave the 4th District, which includes Ahwatukee, Tempe, West Mesa and part of Chandler, as marginally competitive but leaning solidly towards Democrats. The 5th arrondissement, comprising Gilbert, East Mesa, Apache Junction, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and part of Chandler, remains firmly republican.

AIRC Independent President, Commissioner Erika Neuberg, congratulated her colleagues after a day of mediation between Democrats and Republicans.

“I have the very strong impression from my colleagues that you are all equally unhappy and perhaps you are also all equally motivated to find a consensus that is good for the state. I know today has been a tense day at times, but you are wonderful colleagues who do very hard work, public service work. And I am deeply grateful and grateful, ”said Neuberg.

The committee plans to vote on Wednesday morning, which should be the last working day on its congressional and legislative cards. Mehl and Democratic Commissioner Derrick Watchman declined to say whether they expected to vote for the Congress card.

At the start of the day, consensus seemed highly unlikely. Neuberg ended Monday’s meeting in votes with Mehl and Republican Commissioner David York, and against the two Democrats, on a new congressional map that included changes proposed by Mehl, who lives in the Tucson area, that made the 6th District more GOP-friendly.

Although Neuberg has made it clear that she wants to see changes that will make the 6th Arrondissement more competitive, Lerner opened Tuesday’s meeting at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix with jeremiah against the card.

“It will be incredibly difficult to make this card competitive,” she said. “This card … is going to be next to impossible to correct.”

Lerner said she and Watchman could not accept either the 6th District or the 1st Congressional District based in Phoenix and Scottsdale because they were drawn on Monday’s map. She also criticized Neuberg for preventing them from making the changes they wanted to the 2nd Congressional District in northern Arizona and the 9th Congressional District, which stretches from north to the West Valley. in Mohave County.

She accused her fellow Republicans of seeking partisan gains for the GOP by improving competitive Republican-leaning districts for their party, while making Democratic-leaning districts more competitive. And she criticized Neuberg for siding with Mehl and York on most of the 3-2 votes the commission has had since starting its mapping work in October.

“It was very dominated by one side. It was all the way, as you know, ”Lerner said.

Neuberg said she was sorry Lerner felt this, but urged her to continue negotiating, especially on the 6th District, warning that if she and Watchman didn’t, further changes could be made without their contribution.

“It will be your choice how far you want to engage,” Neuberg said. “We’re having trouble on CD6. You should not prejudge the outcome.

Neuberg also said that Lerner’s position was that if she did not side with the Democratic commissioners on their card on Monday night, negotiations would end.

Tension remained high as commissioners fought throughout the day in the Tucson and East Valley districts. The commissioners argued, at one point prompting their transcriptionist to ask them to speak one at a time.

Republicans accused Lerner of taking unreasonable competitive positions.

“We have tried to be patient, but we have as much pressure on us as I’m sure Commissioner Lerner has on her,” Mehl said.

But although Lerner initially said that she and Watchman would not consider 6th District competitive, regardless of the number of votes, if the nine-race “basket” did not have a 5-4 division in one sense or another. in the other – which it was. in her proposal which Mehl and York rejected – she ultimately accepted the proposed changes that fell short of that rating.

“I think we are all trying to find a compromise. Is this the compromise I want? No. I don’t think this card touches on a few things. We can talk about it tomorrow. We are trying to find a consensus. Did we say OK to that? Well I don’t think it was going to go any further. We had a 5-4, and then we clearly didn’t have the votes to keep it, ”Lerner told reporters after the meeting.


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