Brewer’s impeachment scheme advances in Arizona

When we talked last week about the impeachment drive in Arizona, there was still some question about whether Republican officials would actually go through with such a ridiculous stunt. Now, we know the answer.

Let’s quickly review the story for those just joining us. When it comes to post-Census redistricting, Arizona has an Independent Redistricting Commission, made up of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one registered Independent. The system, was adopted by Arizona voters more than a decade ago, and was intended to take partisan agendas out of the redistricting process.

The tripartisan panel recently unveiled a draft proposal that would, as a practical matter, create four safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats, and create three competitive districts, all the while improving the voting influence of the state’s growing Latino population.

This did not sit well with Republicans, who were so outraged that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) raised the prospect of impeaching the commission’s members for producing a map the GOP doesn’t like. Brewer would need the support of two-thirds of the Arizona state Senate, and wouldn’t you know it, Republicans have a 21-9 majority in the chamber.

Which leads us to yesterday.

Gov. Jan Brewer and the GOP-controlled state Senate on Tuesday touched off legal and political battles as they took the unprecedented step of removing the chairwoman of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

On a 21-6 party line vote, the Senate gave the Republican governor the two-thirds majority vote she needed to oust Colleen Coyle Mathis, citing “gross misconduct” in her role at the helm of the independent panel.

In waging the attack against the chairwoman, Brewer’s evidence of “gross misconduct” included allegations that some of the panel’s meetings were private, violating the state’s open-meeting laws.

But there’s no mystery about what’s really going on here. This is a partisan ploy, launched by Arizona Republicans to punish a tripartisan commission for failing to tilt the district map in their favor. The result is a total mess, multiple court fights, and ambiguity as to who, if anyone, is the current chair of the redistricting panel.

Democrats, meanwhile, are accurately calling the GOP stunt “a brazen power grab that would rival any in Arizona history,” and have begun exploring recall elections against three Republican state senators who sided with Brewer on this impeachment drive.

John Avlon’s big-picture assessment struck me as the right one: “If Brewer gets away with this power grab, it will suddenly appear on the menu of every other governor looking to artificially preserve his or her party’s hold on power, Republican or Democrat. It is nothing less than an attempt to hijack representative democracy.”

Even for Republicans, this abuse is outrageous.