Paradise Valley trio pursues seats at Arizona House

From left is Mary Hamway, Kelli Butler and Maria Syms. (submitted photos)

From left is Mary Hamway, Kelli Butler and Maria Syms. (submitted photos)

Three Town of Paradise Valley women are vying for two seats in Legislative District 28 at the Arizona Legislature in the Nov. 8 general election.

Each of the candidates say they represent a steadfast dedication to restoring education funding, creating new jobs and bringing a common sense approach to lawmaking at the Arizona Legislature.

The Paradise Valley candidates are: Kelli Butler, a democrat; and Mary Hamway and Maria Syms, who are both republicans. Ms. Hamway and Ms. Syms have both held elected office at the Town of Paradise Valley while Ms. Butler lost a 2014 bid for the Arizona Senate.

The Arizona House of Representatives, which is the lower house of the local Legislature, elects its members to two-year terms with a term limit of four consecutive stints in office.

Today, the Republican Party holds a majority of 36 to 24 at the House while the state’s 30 legislative districts — a district consists of at least 170,000 people — elects two representatives for each district.

District 28 covers an area that extends from Union Hills to Thomas Road, and from Interstate 17 to just east of Scottsdale Road.

Ms. Butler ran unopposed in the August primary while Ms. Hamway and Ms. Syms emerged from a field of five candidates that included Kenneth Bowers, Matt Morales and Alberto Gutier.

Over the next two weeks the Town of Paradise Valley Independent will be conducting a question-and-answer series to highlight some of the major issues at the capitol and how these legislative hopefuls plan to address them.

Kelli Butler

Ms. Butler says she is opting for a chance to join the ranks of the Arizona Legislature due to a passion to fight for restoration of education funding at the capitol.

“I want to improve education in Arizona,” she said in an Oct. 4 phone interview.

Kelli Butler

Kelli Butler

“In 2014, I ran for the state senate because I really wanted to give a voice to the things that are so important. When I didn’t win, I decided to step up and go for the House.”

Ms. Butler notes education funding restoration, an overhaul at Child Protective Services and helping to diversify the local economy as top issues she would like to tackle at the Legislature.

A wife, mother and small business owner, Ms. Butler contends becoming an elected leaders is the natural progression of things.

“Politics is interesting to me — it is a culmination of what I have been doing all my life,” she said noting her school and community advocacy. “As a legislator, I would have the ability to have a positive impact on some things that I care about so much.”

Ms. Butler says many political matters could be solved in the long term if we focus on education first.

“We need to educate our kids because they are our workforce,” she said. “My real focus is to responsibly restore funding to our schools. We have been promised the next steps after Proposition 123 and we never saw the next steps for funding.”

Ms. Butler contends special interests have too much clout at the Arizona Capitol.

“We have been for years, giving tax breaks to special interests. Now there are good responsible breaks that are working, which are growing our economy,” she said.

“When we do change those tax incentives it will send a message to businesses that we are serious about funding education.”

While never holding public office before, Ms. Butler says LD 28 residents are looking for a change.

“I absolutely have a shot here. Voters in our district want pragmatic government,” she said. “I have lived here my whole life. I remember when there was compromise and competition of ideas at the capitol — there is just this one sided government there now. The voters in our district will appreciate that balance I can bring.”

The divisiveness of social policy bills coming out of the Legislature is, at times, creating a bad image for the great state of Arizona, Ms. Butler says.

“We keep passing divisive social policy. It just give us a bad name,” she pointed out of several bills that have gained negative national attention. “We need to focus on an economic agenda and stop with the divisive social policy.”

Mary Hamway

Ms. Hamway this coming December will have served for 10 years as an elected member of Paradise Valley Town Council — something she says will separate her from the legislative pack.

“I have a strong municipal background and I am familiar with state issues,” she said in an Oct. 5 phone interview. “I think I can be a strong voice for residents and cities and towns. I think I can bring a balance to that, an ability to see both sides.”

Mary Hamway

Mary Hamway

Ms. Hamway ran and lost for the Arizona House two years ago, but says her win in the August primary shows a resolve to make it to the next legislative level.

“Winning the primaries was a huge accomplishment for me,” she noted.

“It really is just a matter of raising money and trying to figure out who all the players are. Lobbyists and advocates have a role in state government. I don’t know if it is more challenging than interesting. I find it very interesting to hear two sides of an issue.”

A diversification of the statewide economy is something Ms. Hamway will seek to encourage through legislative measures if elected this November.

“We have worked hard in the state to develop the biosciences and I think by creating diversity in jobs statewide is a great start to economic diversification,” she said. “But I think it starts with education.”

Ms. Hamway too believes that today’s youth are the future’s leaders.

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce,” she pointed out.

“Technical education is a critical piece to this thing as not everyone is college bound. But we need to develop better technical training — it is culinary, it is biosciences certainly that type of education is critical.”

Meaningful student assessment and programs to correct educational struggles is a measure Ms. Hamway says she is willing to fight for.

“If we evaluate, but we don’t offer the program, then it doesn’t do much good for us to evaluate,” she said of statewide student assessments with a lack of corrective action following the student assessment.

“We might hold them back if they can’t read in the third grade, but do we have the programs in place for those students to be successful. To me, there is no reason to test if you are not going to do anything with the information. I think most schools know that and work toward that but it all comes down to funding. We need to fund for the outcomes we want to achieve.”

Ms. Hamway call the Legislature here last stop on the local political train.

“I never really even planned to be on Town Council,” she quipped. “I am 62 years old and it does take a while to learn the processes and get ingrained. If I can serve eight years in the House that would be a wonderful way for me to give back to my state. I don’t have any grand plans to run for Congress or anything larger than the Legislature.”

Maria Syms

Ms. Syms says she has the experience and a proven track record of real results in local government.

“My 25-year career in public service and private business makes me uniquely qualified to represent LD 28,” she said in an Oct. 6 statement.

Maria Syms

Maria Syms

“With experience as an attorney representing large and small businesses, an Assistant United States Attorney fighting for taxpayers, an Assistant Attorney General protecting Arizona’s most vulnerable, a Paradise Valley Town Councilwoman standing firm against government waste, and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I offer a comprehensive understanding of the economic, education, and public safety issues facing Arizona.”

But being a mother is the one of the most valuable experiences Ms. Syms has had, she contends.

“Most important, I am a mom of three school-aged children so I live public education every day,” she said. “I am personally vested in improving the quality of education so all Arizona families have the opportunity to achieve the American dream.”

Ms. Syms says funding of public education needs to be a top priority at the Arizona Legislature.

“As a former school board member and a mom to children who currently attend public schools right here in the district, I am personally vested in giving all Arizona children the opportunity to reach their full potential,” she said.

“This is the key to future economic prosperity for our state. With respect to early childhood, we need to continue to support the First Things First Early Education and Health Program and promote school readiness through early childhood development programs.”

At the K-12 level, Ms. Syms says more funding than Proposition 123 offered is paramount.

“As for K-12, I support increased funding following the passage of Proposition 123, all day kindergarten, increased teacher recruitment and retention, reduced class sizes, and expansion of our high school vocational training programs,” she said.

“We also need to restore funding to our state universities and foster an environment that increases the number of college degrees and job certifications. Arizona’s economic future depends on our children having the chance to reach their full academic potential and make a positive contribution to our workforce.”

Ms. Syms says she is in support of lower taxes that will put more money in the pockets of hardworking Arizona residents.

“I would seek to simplify the tax systems to create more uniformity, simplicity and fairness,” she explained.

“As a legislator, I would seek to lower the tax burden by eliminating costly government programs that serve no practical purpose.  As a councilwoman, I have stood firm against extraneous spending and government waste that increase the tax burden and I will continue to be strong steward of taxpayer dollars at the state level.”

The daughter of an immigrant, Ms. Syms says she is all too familiar with the burdens of government placed on small businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Arizona economy and the biggest job creators in our state,” she said.

“Government needs to get out of the way so businesses can thrive for the benefit of all Arizonans. I have a record of encouraging business development, having been a leader in the revitalization of several resorts in our community. In addition, I have repeatedly called for lower taxes so the resorts could thrive and both tourists and residents would invest in our community.”

Ms. Syms says Arizona can be a leader in job growth on a national level if the correct environment is created through sound public policy.

“With the right pro-business agenda, Arizona is currently positioned to be a leader in the nation in job growth and economic prosperity,” she said.

“Arizona business is the key to improving the quality of life for our citizens in all areas by generating the financial resources to deliver quality education, public safety and security and opportunity for all. As a public servant, and even more important, as a mom, I want to continue to be part of creating prosperity in Arizona now and for future generations.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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