Syms ousted as Butler, Lieberman win LD28 House race

Katie Campbell//November 6, 2018

Syms ousted as Butler, Lieberman win LD28 House race

Katie Campbell//November 6, 2018

Rep. Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley)
Rep. Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley)

Democrats abandoned their single-shot strategy in the Legislative District 28 House race this year, and it paid off.

Incumbent Rep. Kelli Butler and fellow Democrat Aaron Lieberman pulled ahead of Republicans Rep. Maria Syms and Kathy Pappas Petsas early on and maintained their lead.

Syms sparked controversy early in the cycle when her husband, Mark Syms, challenged Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee as an independent, a move many saw as jeopardizing Republican control of the Senate. And she didn’t redeem herself in the eyes of fellow Republicans. During a debate in September, Petsas said Syms sowed disunity among the Republicans seeking to represent LD28 in both chambers.

In the midst of the Republican infighting, Lieberman pulled ahead of the pack in the money race, raising about $236,000 in total contributions as of the latest campaign finance reporting period. Butler was never far behind.

Some Democrats worried that abandoning the previously successful single-shot strategy and not focusing on protecting Butler’s seat was the wrong move. Those in the party seem to have called it wrong.

But Republicans may have found some redemption in Brophy McGee, who was leading her Senate race against Democratic challenger Christine Marsh by just about 1,500 votes Wednesday afternoon.

Lieberman was one of at least three Democratic newcomers who overcame Republican incumbents in the House. Domingo DeGrazia topped Rep. Todd Clodfelter in Legislative District 10, and Jennifer Jermaine ousted Rep. Jill Norgaard in Legislative District 18. Those outcomes narrow the party split in that chamber to 32-28.

And Dems could gain a fourth seat. Rep. Jeff Weninger won his re-election bid in Legislative District 17, but the race for the second seat was too close to call. Weninger’s fellow Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but just about 400 votes separated the two.


LD28 House by the numbers

Early votes


Maria Syms 24 percent

Kathy Pappas Petsas 24 percent


Kelli Butler 27 percent

Aaron Lieberman 25 percent