LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Gov. Jan Brewer criticized a proposed redistricting map that virtually guarantees at least four of the state's nine congressional districts will be represented by her fellow Republicans and makes three others competitive.
"It's like thievery," Brewer said. "It's absolutely egregious as far as I'm concerned," she said of the maps adopted Monday night by the Independent Redistricting Commission.
Brewer, who is speaking today at the annual Governor's Dinner of the Arkansas Republican Party, did not dispute historic voting patterns and party registration suggest four of the districts are likely to be Republican strongholds.
Two others - one running from midtown Tucson to Yuma and the other in southwest Phoenix - are considered strongly Democratic. Both also are considered "majority-minority" districts, with sufficient numbers of Hispanics to ensure that a Latino can get elected.
That leaves three competitive districts, where the margin of difference between voters is close enough that a candidate from either party could win.
While the allocation of safe districts favors Republicans 4 to 2, the latest figures from the Secretary of State's Office show the two parties are actually much more closely matched in registered voters, with 35.5 percent Republicans, 31.1 percent Democrats and the balance independents or affiliated with other minor parties.
Brewer, however, was undeterred by those numbers.
"It's obvious how it's favoring the Democrats," she said of the proposed districts, without providing specifics. "It's absolutely blatant."
She said the commission map ignores what she sees as the political reality that "Arizona is a red state."
Brewer is not alone in her criticism. U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks and Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin have all issued statements lambasting the proposed districts. All are Republicans.
One of the most common complaints relates to U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, the son of the former vice president, who was elected to Congress last year in a district that is heavily Republican. The new map puts his house seat in one of the competitive districts.
Although federal law does not require candidates to live in their own districts, one who runs in another district risks being called a carpetbagger.
Quayle, in a prepared statement, said he shares the governor's "serious concerns" about whether the maps fairly represent all Arizonans.
"The IRC was supposed to take politics out of the redistricting process, but that obviously did not happen," he said. "This gerrymandered map was drawn with an undeniable partisan purpose."
Two members of the commission are Republicans, two are Democrats and one is an independent.
Colleen Mathis, the registered independent who chairs the panel, defended the plan.
"It's a compromise map," she told the Arizona Republic. The only alternatives to the map that was approved Monday were proposals offered by Democratic and Republican interests.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican now running for the Senate, acknowledged the commission pushed to create several competitive districts. But that does not make it right, he said.
"The IRC seems to have sacrificed communities of interest for competitiveness," he said in a prepared statement. "While that might make partisans happy, it ignores the law."
Before 2000, state lawmakers drew the lines for their own districts and for congressional seats. That year voters approved a constitutional plan to give the power to the commission that had to include representatives of both parties and independents.
The public will have 30 days to comment before the commission adopts a final plan.
Brewer suggested, though, that her objections may go beyond simply voicing her concerns.
The law empowers the governor to recommend the Senate remove any member of the commission who is not doing her or his job. And Mathis has come under fire from Republicans who charge she sides too much with the Democrats.
The governor wouldn't say on Wednesday whether she intends to exercise that option. "But, obviously, someone is not doing their job," she said.