It's typical Republican whining, but taken to a nuclear-level power grab. If you haven't been following this saga, here's the background in a nutshell: Eleven years ago, Arizona voters passed a ballot measure that took redistricting away from the legislature and created an independent commission (known as the IRC) to handle this once-a-decade task. The panel—required by law to comprise two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent—completed its work without much controversy during the last round of redistricting, but this time has proved to be very different.
For much of the year, Republican office-holders and conservative agitators throughout the state have howled about the commission's work, spuriously claiming that the panel was tilted toward Democrats. Their rhetoric was toxic almost from day one, and eventually it led to official legal action: Republican Attorney General Tom Horne opened a very public investigation into alleged malfeasance by the Democratic and independent commissioners, designed to mau-mau them into obedience. In the end, the commission produced a draft map early last month that was so unfair, it contained four safe GOP seats and only two safe Democratic districts.
Yes, that's me being extremely arch. Only in the warped conservative worldview could a map with four Republican seats, two Democratic seats, and three evenly balanced districts be considered somehow "unfair" to the GOP. If anything, the map is unfair to Democrats, seeing as there are 1.1 million registered Republicans in the state, compared to a million each of Dems and independents. But as Democratic state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema put it:
"The legislative map is a very Republican map," Sinema said, "so when I hear my Republican colleagues whining and moping about the map, I feel like they can't count or something. I don't understand because they come out like gangbusters on this map." […]
"If you're used to getting the whole pie, and all of a sudden you only get three-quarters of a pie, well, yeah, you're going to be upset," she said.
So what's happened since the commission published its initial proposal? Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has moved forward with plans to impeach the commissioners she doesn't like: independent Colleen Mathis and possibly Democrats Linda McNulty and Jose Herrera. Impeaching at least one of this trio would likely force a reconstituted—and cowed—commission to start its work all over again, which is exactly what the GOP is hoping for with this plan of maximum intimidation.
Incidentally, the law that created the IRC specifies that commissioners may only be removed "for substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office." Brewer has only made pro forma attempts to demonstrate such serious wrong-doing, but if Republicans could impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blowjob, it's hardly a surprise that they'd forge ahead against the redistricting commission with little in the way of evidence to support grave charges.
In any event, Brewer needs the consent of two thirds of the state Senate to remove any commissioners, and the GOP holds 21 of that chamber's 30 seats. So in theory, it should be possible for Brewer to ram impeachment through the chamber, and to that end, she's reportedly trying to call a special session of the legislature today. But fortunately, there are some roadblocks to Brewer's attempted coup.
One is Republican state Sen. Frank Antenori, who wants unhappiness over the commission settled at the ballot box, not in the legislature. And he's threatening to derail Brewer's plans:
Antenori told our reporter he has the votes needed to kill any attempt to remove commissioners if the special session call doesn’t include language allowing for the referral of a measure to the February presidential preference primary ballot to either amend or repeal the IRC—something he said Brewer is unwilling to do.
“I’m not going to let this freaking governor push me around. This is pure, stupid, stubborn Jan Brewer,” he said. […]
After a flurry of phone calls last night and this morning, Antenori said he now has the backing of four other caucus members and expects to peel another two or three off from leadership before the closed caucus ends: “If I go into this caucus room at 12:30, this thing goes down. I’m not playing around…. This is the line in the sand. We’re referring it to the ballot, whether we’re amending (prop 106), scrapping it, fixing it. I don’t care. It cannot stand as is.”
Another problem is posed by state Democrats, who are threatening to recall four supposedly "moderate" Republican senators: Rich Crandall, Adam Driggs, Michele Reagan and John McComish. Since Antenori hasn't said which legislators are supposedly with him, there's no telling whether there's any overlap between his allies and these potential recall targets, but if you add them together, perhaps half the GOP caucus is in turmoil.
Finally, the threatened commissioners themselves are fighting back, threatening to sue Brewer if she persists in bringing spurious impeachment proceedings against them. The whole situation is very much in flux right now, though we'll undoubtedly know more soon. But one thing we already know is that rabid conservatives like Jan Brewer will stop at nothing when it comes to getting 100 percent of what they want, every time, the law be damned.
5:15 PM PT: The special session has finally convened. You can watch it live here.