Jesse Kelly Makes a Comeback? And Is His Pal Headed to the Independent Redistricting Commission?

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The Range hears that Republican Jesse Kelly, who lost his bid to unseat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by fewer than 4,200 votes last month, may be itching for a rematch.

The GOP rumor circuit is buzzing with word that Kelly will announce his plans to run against Giffords as soon as mid-January.

And, depending on how things go at tomorrow’s hearing of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, he may end up with a friend on the Independent Redistricting Committee.

A few weeks ago, we told you about how Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce and Speaker of the House Kirk Adams complained about the list of candidates that they had to choose from to create the Independent Redistricting Commission, which has the job of drawing the boundaries for the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

A bit of background for those who haven’t been following this story as its unfolded in the papers and on the blogs: The 25 candidates for the Independent Redistricting Commission

are narrowed down from a pool of applicants by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which normally has the job of vetting candidates for the judiciary.

Then it’s the job of the speaker of the House, the Senate president, the House minority leader and the Senate minority leader to each pick one member of the Independent Redistricting Commission. The four new members of the IRC pick a political independent from the list to round out the five-member panel that will create Arizona’s political maps.

Pearce and Adams were upset that they had only one Republican nominee who lived outside of Maricopa County—and that meant they’d likely have to pick that candidate, Tucsonan Benny White, because no more than two commissioners can come from Maricopa County.

Adams and Pearce were particularly incensed because one member of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments had questioned IRC applicant Christopher Gleason’s involvement in a religious group.

The commissioner who brought up Gleason’s background, Louis Araneta, has since resigned from the judicial panel, although he protested that his comments had been taken out of context by Adams and Pearce.

Nonetheless, the GOP legislative leaders’ complaint had the desired effect: The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is scheduled to meet again tomorrow to reconsider the list of nominees.

That, in turn, has led more than 100 people to write letters in support of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, arguing that they should stick by their guns and not let themselves be pushed around by lawmakers. You can see the letters here.

Here’s a detail that hasn’t been explored in all the controversy over Gleason’s application: He was also a member of the Conservatives for Congress Committee, which ran a number of below-the-belt hits against Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in an unsuccessful effort to boost Jesse Kelly earlier this year.

We hear from multiple sources that Gleason—who didn’t return a phone call from The Range—is now helping set up a new non-profit with the working title of Tucson 360. The plan is to hire Kelly as an executive director of the non-profit so he’ll have a perch from which he will be conducting his 2012 congressional campaign.

If that’s the case, then it appears to us that Gleason is eager to see Kelly win a congressional seat—and something that members of the Appellate Court Commission should keep in mind when they're deciding whether to appoint him to the commission that will be drawing the lines of the state’s congressional districts. Do we really need a ringer for Jesse Kelly on the Independent Redistricting Commission?

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