Chandler woman leads redistricting panel - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler woman leads redistricting panel

January 2nd, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler woman leads redistricting panel

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

A Chandler woman has been selected to lead the commission that is redrawing Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts.

Erika Schupak Neuberg, a licensed psychologist-turned-life coach with a practice on Dobson Road, will spearhead one of the state’s most powerful citizen-led commissions that will make decisions that could significantly impact the composition of Arizona’s congressional delegation and the Legislature for the next decade.

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convenes with a new set of members once every decade to adjust the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts to account for population shifts.

Two Democrats and two Republicans are picked by the Legislature to sit on the commissionl they in turn interview and select an independent voter to preside over the five-member panel.

Commissioners cannot be anyone who has been elected to public office within the last three years nor has served as an officer of a political party.

Neuberg was picked earlier this month from a list of five candidates.

She said her first priority will be to create a “fair” district map that will be able to withstand any litigious challenges. The commission is obligated to draw districts that are roughly equal in population, appear compact, attempt to adhere to city and county boundaries and are electorally competitive.

The new commissioners may be faced with having to make some dramatic revisions in the coming months. Arizona has gained about a million new residents since 2010 and is projected to add a 10th congressional seat to its delegation.

Neuberg, who has lived in Arizona for the last 40 years, said she hopes the commission’s members can establish “mutual trust” for one another and be able to make unanimous, nonpartisan decisions.   

“I believe I have the unique skill set, as well as the integrity and character, to successfully chair this process,” Neuberg wrote in a statement.

Neuberg will likely have to deal with political pressure from both sides, especially considering the hostility that previous chairs have encountered.

Colleen Mathis, the last person to hold the job, was forced off the commission in 2011 by then-Gov. Jan Brewer amid accusations of drafting unfavorable maps and holding secret meetings.

The Arizona Supreme Court later determined Brewer had overstepped her powers and overruled her actions by reinstating Mathis to the commission.

Though Neuberg has been politically engaged for most of her life, she described herself as being “fiercely independent” and “agnostic” to party politics.

The commission needs a chairperson who can “resist external pressures and criticisms,” she said, and continue an unbiased dedication to the commission’s constitutional duties.

Neuberg earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Colorado College in 1986 before receiving a doctoral degree in psychology from Arizona State University.

She said her educational background has instilled in her a lifelong respect for civics, history and community activism.

“As a student of political science, I developed a deep appreciation for our Constitution and the freedoms it affords us,” Neuberg said.

Between 2010 and 2013, Neuberg was president of a bipartisan committee that aimed to strengthen America’s relations with Israel and made several trips to Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers.

“I have seen first-hand when citizen advocacy works and when it does not, and when government is effective and when it is not,” she said.

During her interview with other commission members, Neuberg was asked about her many financial contributions to politicians – both Republican and Democratic – and whether that might compromise her ability to remain neutral.

Neuberg said her campaign donations were solely made to get the attention of elected officials and inform them of international matters involving Israel.   

“Every single check I wrote was for the intention of having educational opportunities and to create the type of relationship such that we can have time to teach about foreign policy,” Neuberg said.

Arizona’s legislative and congressional districts had been drawn by state lawmakers until voters passed a proposition in 2000 to establish an independent commission.

The state filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging the commission’s constitutional authority and attempted to shift district-drawing powers back to the Legislature.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the state’s arguments and upheld the commission’s validity.

Neuberg said she understands the magnitude of her new position and all the ethical responsibilities she’ll be expected to maintain over the next several months.

But the rewards of participating in the commission’s meaningful process are deep, she said, and worth the personal sacrifice.    

“My years of political advocacy have taught me how to bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives together to find consensus for the common good,” Neuberg added.

Her professional background also might come in handy, given the challenge ahead of her

A licensed psychologist for over 20 years, Neuberg in her professional life treated issues ranging “from severe pathology to everyday life stress,” according to her website.

“Regardless of the presenting problem, I consistently discovered that my clients achieved the best results when I employed forward-thinking and positive techniques that sparked excitement for change,” she says on her website.

She says she “made a slight career adjustment and now practices exclusively as a life coach.”

“When you combine the science of psychology with the power of partnership and motivation, you get success,” she explains.