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A GOP senator marshalled her supporters to back a gun store owner to lead the redistricting panel

By: - January 20, 2021 4:17 pm

Public domain image via Pixabay

A bombastic pro-Trump state senator from Flagstaff is supporting Robert Wilson to be the fifth and final member of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Committee, and residents of her legislative district have flooded the panel with comments urging his selection as chairman.

An Arizona Mirror analysis of the 350 public comments submitted to the AIRC on the five independent candidates to lead the commission showed 60% of them were about Wilson. Of those 210 comments, 145 were in favor of his candidacy. 

And the Mirror found 61 comments that used language verbatim to that on social media posts — like this one on Facebook posted to a Republican group — promoted as coming from Sen. Wendy Rogers, a freshman Republican from Flagstaff.

“The 5th member must be an independent. YOU NEED TO WRITE IN A SUPPORTIVE COMMENT FOR INDEPENDENT ROB WILSON FROM NORTHERN ARIZONA! Rob Wilson is Wendy Rogers’s choice,” reads the post, which includes a link to the form for submitting comments. 

Rogers’s supporters were urged to mention Wilson’s residence in rural Arizona (he lives in Flagstaff), the need for an expected 10th congressional district to be based in rural Arizona, Wilson’s ability to facilitate “highly technical meetings of divergent opinions,” and a belief that the other four candidates won’t “work FOR the citizens of Arizona.”

Rogers didn’t respond to a request for comment to verify that she supported Wilson’s candidacy, but it’s telling that 140 of the 145 comments supporting him came from residents of Coconino, Gila and Yavapai counties: Rogers represents Legislative District 6, which includes portions of those three counties. 

Several hours after this story was first published, Rogers acknowledged on Twitter that she organized her supporters to urge the AIRC to choose Wilson.

Wilson’s status as a finalist for the AIRC has angered Democrats, who say he is a conservative and would favor Republicans in the map-drawing. Wilson has hosted events at his Flagstaff gun store for President Donald Trump’s campaign and other Republican candidates — including Rogers — and Democrats who have worked with him at nonprofit organizations in Flagstaff claim he’s clearly biased toward the GOP. 

(Wilson also received the endorsement of a statewide Republican officeholder. Jim O’Connor, who was elected to the Arizona Corporation Commision in November, wrote that Wilson “(d)emonstrated strength and competency” and a “(c)ollaborative working spirit” during his interview.)

The Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to remove Wilson from the list of finalists, arguing that he was politically biased and couldn’t be considered an “independent.” A court rejected the claim because Wilson has been a registered independent voter for the time required by the Arizona Constitution.

***UPDATED: This story has been updated to include Rogers’s comment on Twitter.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.