Tucson Phoenix

After a day of accusations, recriminations and partisan sniping, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission found its way to what seemed like an improbable consensus and paved the way for a possible unanimous vote on the final version of the congressional map the state will use for the next

decade.

The AIRC reached an agreement on where to draw the boundary between two congressional districts in Tucson on Tuesday evening after making a series of changes to make one of the districts more competitive, a prerequisite for the Democratic commissioners’ support.

Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner and Republican Commissioner David Mehl sparred throughout the day, eventually agreeing on how to split the 6th and 7th congressional districts in Tucson. The 6th District is a competitive, Republican-leaning district that covers the eastern part of Tucson and most of southeastern Arizona, while the 7th District is a predominantly Latino, Democratic stronghold drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act, which runs from western and southern Tucson to Yuma, extending into the West Valley in Maricopa County.

After trading competing proposals earlier in the day, Lerner and Mehl worked out an agreement Tuesday evening for the boundary in Tucson that makes the 6th District, on the eastern side of the line, more competitive. The commission measures competitiveness using the vote spread and final results of nine statewide races in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Based on those metrics, the district leans Republican by about 2.4% and Republicans won six of the nine elections in the “basket” of races.

Under the commission’s metrics, anything within a 7% spread is considered competitive and anything within 4% is deemed highly

competitive.

The map the commissioners ended their day with has four safe Republican districts, two safe Democratic districts and three competitive districts, two of which qualify as highly competitive. One of the safe Republican districts, the 2nd District based in northern Arizona, is just barely outside the range that would be considered competitive.

The new Tucson boundary runs along 1st Avenue between the Rillito River and Fort Lowell Road. Between Fort Lowell and Speedway, the boundary will be along Country Club Road, and from Speedway to Broadway Boulevard, the border moves east to Alvernon Way. From there, the 7th District juts east into Tucson between Broadway and Golf Links.

In addition, the 7th District added the eastern half of Santa Cruz County and a sliver of territory along the U.S.-Mexico border that extends east to take in Bisbee and Douglas.

The Democratic and Republican commissioners also hashed out an agreement for changes to the 4th and 5th congressional districts in the East Valley. Those new lines leave the 4th District, which includes Ahwatukee, Tempe, west Mesa and part of Chandler, as marginally competitive but leaning solidly toward the Democrats. The 5th District, taking in Gilbert, east Mesa, Apache Junction, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and a portion of Chandler, remains

solidly Republican.

Commissioner Erika Neuberg, the AIRC’s independent chair, lauded her colleagues after a day of mediating between the Democrats and

Republicans.

“I do get a very strong sense from my colleagues that you’re all equally unhappy and also maybe you’re all equally motivated to find consensus that does right by the state. I know today was tense at times, but you’re remarkable colleagues that are doing really hard work, public service work. And I’m deeply grateful and appreciative,” Neuberg said.

The commission plans to vote on Wednesday morning, which is expected to be the final day of work on both its congressional and legislative maps. Mehl and Democratic Commissioner Derrick Watchman wouldn’t comment on whether they expected to vote for the congressional map.

At the start of the day, consensus seemed highly improbable. Neuberg ended Monday’s meeting by voting with Mehl and Republican Commissioner David York, and against the two Democrats, on a new congressional map that included changes that Mehl, who lives in the Tucson area, proposed that made the 6th District more favorable for the GOP.

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