Flower shop owner replaces history teacher as redistricting panel finalist




arizona redistricting
Image credit EzumeImages | iStock / Getty Images Plus

The owner of a luxury floral boutique in Scottsdale will be the fifth finalist for independent chair of Arizona’s next redistricting commission after a previous finalist withdrew from contention.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which vets candidates for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, unanimously selected Megan Carollo, who owns Flower Bar, for the five-person list of finalists on Tuesday. Carollo was the first runner-up when the appellate commission chose its finalists earlier this month, losing a tiebreaker vote for the fifth spot.

Carollo will replace Nicole Cullen, a teacher at Gilbert’s Perry High School, who withdrew from consideration last week, citing family circumstances.

Commissioner Gerald Nabours noted that Carollo only narrowly missed out on becoming a finalist.

“I would think that when the interviews were fresh and our discussions were fresh, Megan Carollo would be right there,” Nabours said before nominating her.

THE MORNING NEWSLETTER
Subscribe now.

Carollo said during the commission’s Oct. 8 meeting that conflict mediation is a skill she has to use often in her business, which would also serve her well as IRC chair.

“Sometimes weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. Negotiating between a bride and her mother or her future mother-in-law can sometimes get a little dicey,” she said. “You just have to find a common ground and look at what they both want, what the end goal is. And sometimes it’s a matter of just where we can meet in the middle. And usually it takes a little bit of compromising on both sides.”

Carollo also has a background in data and statistics, which she said would be useful on the redistricting commission.

When the panel interviewed candidates in early October, several commissioners said they were impressed by Carollo’s application and were enthusiastic about the prospect of having a small business owner who’s never been involved with politics serving on the AIRC.

“I thought it would be great to have a small business perspective,” Commissioner Danny Seiden said at the commission’s Oct. 8 meeting.

Try it yourself: Draw new congressional districts

But some commissioners were also skeptical that Carollo said she hadn’t realized how much scrutiny she would be under as IRC chair, who must break ties if the two Democrats and two Republicans deadlock, and questioned whether she had the fortitude to serve in the high-profile, high-pressure position.

“I think that the independent is going to have to be fairly tough because the independent will either bring a coalition or will be a tiebreaker,” Commissioner William Gresser said on Oct. 8.

The other finalists for independent chair are:

  • Thomas Loquvam, general counsel and vice president of corporate services at the utility company EPCOR. He previously served as general counsel at Pinnacle West, the parent company of Arizona Public Service.
  • Erika Schupak Neuberg, a psychologist with a practice in Scottsdale who serves as a national board member for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
  • Gregory Teesdale, an Oro Valley resident and former executive at venture capital companies
  • Robert Wilson, who owns a business consulting practice and gun store in Flagstaff

About a dozen people spoke during the public comments section of the appellate commission’s meeting on Tuesday morning, though only two actually addressed candidates who were in consideration for the vacant position. Instead, most speakers urged the commissioners to strive for more diversity among the finalists, noting the low number of women or people of color on the list of finalists. Many speakers implored the commission to reopen the interview process and consider applicants whom they had previously passed over.

Only seven of the 25 finalists were women — six after Cullen’s withdrawal — and only five are non-white.

“That list does not look like Arizona. It looks like maybe Minnesota, but it sure doesn’t look like Arizona,” said Scott Moore, the Democratic chairman of Legislative District 25, which includes much of Mesa.

Several commissioners defended themselves from accusations that their list of finalists wasn’t diverse enough, noting that 15% of the qualified applicants were people of color, as were 15% of the 51 candidates selected for interviews. The commission noted that they are not permitted to recruit candidates themselves.

“I know that we can only pick the people who applied. I know that this commission was seriously concerned about having a diverse selection of candidates,” said Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, who chairs the appellate commission. “I think this commission made every effort to have a diverse selection of people who were qualified and who applied for the job.”

Some non-white candidates who were selected for interviews were disqualified because they didn’t meet criteria in the Arizona Constitution prohibiting people who have been paid lobbyists or held public office during the previous three years from serving on the IRC.

One speaker urged the commission to reject applicant Nick Dranias for his previous work at the libertarian Goldwater Institute and his support for a controversial British academic who was fired by Cambridge University.

Timing may be everything when it comes to redistricting commission picks

Amy Love, the communications director for Maricopa County Superior Court, read a letter in support of applicant Joseph Citelli, an attorney who serves as general counsel at the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Citelli was a member of the 2019 Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy cohort, and Love and about two dozen other members of the class penned a letter in his support, saying, “His legal training and background in successful mediation, combined with his experience conducting public forums statewide, make him uniquely aware of the needs of our citizens.” 

Carollo’s chances of being selected are likely better than one in five, given that Democrats have been publicly critical of three of the other finalists: Wilson recently hosted a campaign event for President Donald Trump in the parking lot of his gun store and has hosted Republican candidates for other offices as well; Democrats are wary of Loquvam due to his ties to APS, which has spent millions against Democratic candidates for the Corporation Commission; and Neuberg has given money to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s campaign and political action committee, though she’s given tens of thousands to candidates from both parties, including most members of Arizona’s congressional delegation.

HELP US GROW
Make a tax-deductible donation.