PHOENIX — The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is facing new scrutiny amid calls from legislators to re-open the interview process to a more diverse pool of applicants, and because of a report that the partisan activities of two independent applicants were brought to the attention of the Commission before interview selections were made on September 17th.
As reported by the Arizona Mirror, public comment submitted to the Commission provided members with clear evidence that Anders Lundin of Fountain Hills and Robert Wilson of Flagstaff had publicly engaged in partisan political activities — in some cases, as recently as August and September:
“Two people who applied to be the independent chairman of Arizona’s next redistricting commission have shown recent support for Republican candidates, public commenters warned the nominating panel that vets the candidates…
Wilson, who owns a gun store and business consulting practice in Flagstaff, hosted an Aug. 20 event by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in the parking lot of his store…
Lundin, a retired attorney who lives in Fountain Hills, submitted a letter earlier this month to the Fountain Hills Times defending Republican Congressman David Schweikert, who represents the area, over his admission to 11 ethics violations following a report by the House Ethics Committee that found evidence of misuse of office and campaign funds.”
Wilson and Lundin are two of only eleven independent applicants selected by the Commission to interview for a spot on the finalist list. Those selected as finalists will be eligible for appointment as chair of the IRC.
The Arizona Democratic Party echoes the request made this week by legislative leaders to re-open the interviews to include more applicants of color:
“Arizona is a diverse state and the members of this Commission need to accurately represent the multitude of people living in our state…
Currently, only 8 of the 51 [applicants] selected (or about 15%) for an interview are applicants of color. Yet there are several eligible and qualified applicants of color that we urge you to consider to ensure that this process is fair and truly representative of the state of Arizona.
There is no acceptable excuse for the relative lack of people of color chosen for the important duty of redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts.”
Arizona Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini issued the following statement:
“It is troubling to see the Commission largely disregard the credible evidence of partisan activity presented to them by concerned members of the public. Two ‘independent’ applicants who had recently promoted Republican candidates were allowed to advance in the IRC selection process, while several highly qualified candidates were dismissed with almost no discussion or debate.
It was equally disappointing to see the number of highly qualified Independent, Democrat, and Republican applicants of color who were shut out of the interviews. The pool of candidates for the IRC should reflect the diversity of the population of Arizona, just as the Constitution requires the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments to reflect the demographic diversity of Arizonans. We share the concerns of the leaders of the Black, Latino, LGBTQ, and Indigenous Peoples Caucuses, and support their call to interview more applicants of color.
We urge the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments to go back to the drawing board. It is absolutely crucial that Arizonans are able to trust the integrity of this process. The constitutional deadline of January 8th to determine the list of finalists eligible for IRC appointment provides the Commission with more than enough time to regroup, reassess, and select a diverse group of applicants for interview, including independents who are truly independent. The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments owes it to Arizonans to get this right.”