Fann picks Maricopa County businessman as second Republican for redistricting commission

By: - October 30, 2020 12:34 pm
arizona redistricting

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Senate President Karen Fann selected Douglas York, who runs an irrigation and landscape supply company in Phoenix, as the second Republican and third overall member of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

And in choosing someone from Maricopa County, Fann, R-Prescott, limited Senate Minority Leader David Bradley’s choices in choosing the AIRC’s second Democrat. No more than two of the commissioners chosen by Republican and Democratic legislative leaders can be from the same county, and York is the second member from Maricopa County. Bradley now has one week to make his selection.

Fann, R-Prescott, said she met with all 10 Republican finalists for the redistricting commission. All were qualified and it was a difficult choice, she said, but in the end her choice was York. She had until Nov. 5 to make her appointment — a week after House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez made her selection — but announced her pick after only one day.

“He understands the challenges Arizona faces in the next decade. He’s lived here since 1987 and knows the growth patterns of Arizona. Mr. York has a sincere interest in serving the state. I am confident he will work collaboratively with other commission members to develop a fair outcome to the redistricting process.”

York is the president and CEO of Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply, a Phoenix-based company that’s been owned  by York’s family for four generations, with more than 220 branch locations in 26 states. He represents his company in the green and wholesale distribution industries, and is active in Ewing’s efforts to shape policy on water scarcity issues at the federal, state and local levels. York has lived in Arizona since 1987.

In addition, York is chairman of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors board, and is the former president of the Irrigation Association and of the International Association of Plastics Distributors.

Fernandez, D-Yuma, on Thursday chose anthropology and archaeology professor Shereen Lerner, a Maricopa County resident, for the redistricting commission on Thursday. House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, selected Tucson developer David Mehl as the commission’s first member a week earlier.

When the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments interviewed redistricting candidates in early October, York criticized the work of the previous AIRC, which was a lightning rod for Republican criticism after the independent chair effectively formed a coalition with her two Democratic colleagues. 

York said the last redistricting commission didn’t pay enough deference to communities of interest, a broad term that can apply to any grouping of people with similar interests or backgrounds. He noted that the AIRC split Yuma in half in both the congressional and legislative maps, a move aimed at using the southern part of the city to preserve majority-minority districts, but that angered many people in the border community. 

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He also questioned the AIRC’s decision to draw legislative districts with unequal populations, which was a central claim in an unsuccessful Republican lawsuit against the boundaries. Legislative districts, unlike congressional districts, are permitted a certain degree of population imbalance, and the AIRC in some cases used that leeway to attempt to make some districts more competitive.

The appellate commission, which vets redistricting applicants and selects the list of 25 finalists, asked the candidates how they would balance communities of interest and competitiveness, two criteria that the Arizona Constitution mandates the AIRC must consider when drawing districts.

“We, I think, as a state continue to evolve. And one of the things that I believe is important as a commissioner is to continue to sort of seek out what those communities of interest look like in a way that is more inclusive of the entire community,” York said. “Competitiveness in districts, obviously I think it’s a desire of the politician, but I don’t know if it serves the interests of the commission.”

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the AIRC must consider competitiveness as a factor when drawing districts, though the Arizona Constitution also states that the AIRC must strive to make districts more competitive only on the condition that doing so doesn’t diminish the other criteria. Competitiveness is the only one of the six criteria that includes such a caveat.

York’s criticism of the last AIRC went over well with the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, especially some of its Republican members. 

“I really liked that they called out some of the issues that the past IRC had. He called it out and really addressed that they overlooked communities of interest. He wasn’t afraid to say that and address how he would take that into consideration,” said Republican Commissioner Laura Ciscomani.

Linley Wilson, another Republican commissioner, also appreciated York’s view of communities of interest and that he cited Yuma as an example of a community of interest that was divided by the last AIRC.

“I think he might have been the only candidate to mention inclusivity, that there’s a way to do this better that’s more inclusive,” she said.

Bradley must choose the final partisan member of the AIRC from among the five Democratic finalists who aren’t from Maricopa County:

  • Grant Buma, a retired hydrology engineer from Prescott
  • Bryan Cooperrider, a surveyor with the United States Geological Survey in Flagstaff
  • Robert Kovitz, a Tucson businessman and Army veteran who served at NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
  • Derrick Watchman, who runs a banking and financial services company in Window Rock, is the former CEO of Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprises and a former chief of staff to the Navajo Nation executive branch
  • Teresa Wyatt, a former Arizona Department of Health Services employee who retired in 2014 as director of rehabilitation services at Children’s Clinics for Rehabilitative Services in Tucson

Democrats have repeatedly criticized the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments for interviewing relatively few non-white applicants or including few on its list of finalists, alleging that the nominating panel overlooked qualified applicants of color, an accusation that the commission has rejected. 

The first three appointments to the AIRC were white, as are four of the five remaining eligible Democrats. Only Watchman, a member of the Navajo Nation, is non-white.

Once Bradley makes his decision, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs must call a meeting so the four partisan AIRC appointments can choose a fifth member from the list of five independent finalists to serve as the commission’s chair.

Those independent finalists are: 

  • Megan Carollo, the owner of Flower Bar, a luxury floral boutique in Scottsdale.
  • 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

Nicole Cullen, an American history, American government and criminal justice teacher at Perry High School in Gilbert, was originally one of the five independent finalists. The appellate commission selected Carollo as a replacement after Cullen withdrew from consideration.

Bradley and Fernandez have filed a lawsuit seeking to remove Loquvam and Wilson from the list of independent finalists. 

They alleged that Loquvam should be disqualified under a constitutional prohibition on anyone who has been a paid registered lobbying in the previous three years because he’s registered to lobby on behalf of his employer at the Corporation Commission, though he isn’t registered with the Secretary of State’s Office to lobby the legislature. 

And Wilson, the Democratic leaders argue, isn’t a true independent because he’s hosted events at his Flagstaff gun store for President Donald Trump and has hosted Republican candidates for other offices, though Wilson does appear to meet the qualifications in the Arizona Constitution, which only requires that independent members of the AIRC be registered as independents for at least three years prior to their appointment.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford on Thursday rejected Bradley and Fernandez’s request to halt the appointment process while the lawsuit plays out, and said they’re unlikely to succeed in their attempt to disqualify Loquvam and Wilson.

The Arizona Democratic Party has also raised concerns about Neuberg because she contributed $10,000 to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s campaign and political action committee though she has also given tens of thousands of dollars to many candidates of both parties, including most Democratic and Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

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