A lawsuit was filed on Monday on behalf of Arizona State Senator Kate Brophy McGee to disqualify petition signatures collected by her independent challenger Mark Syms. Is this another case of an establishment politician beating up an insurgent outsider? Hardly. Mark Syms is a respected local doctor with no political track record, but he is the husband of Republican Arizona House member Maria Syms.
Mark Syms only entered the race a few weeks before the filing deadline (hence a rush to get signatures that appears to have led to the lawsuit). McGee has a strong personal motive to get Mark Syms disqualified: she is running against tough Democratic opposition in one of Arizona’s few competitive State Senate races. Mark Syms’ entry into the electoral fray is a real problem for her.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not), McGee ally Kathy Petsas recently entered Maria Syms’ race in the Arizona House. This has made Maria Syms’ re-election must less certain. If you connect the dots, it appears to many Maria Syms may have arranged for her husband Mark Syms to run for the Senate just to retaliate against McGee and Petsas.
Not for the first time in 2018 we are saying, WTF ARIZONA?!
Maria Syms: Machiavellian genius, or just pissed off?
Arizona has a unique districting system for its legislature: there are 30 electoral districts, and every two years each district elects one Senator and two Representatives. Although this story involves both Senate and House races, both races are for the same North Phoenix legislative district, LD28.
LD28 is one of the most competitive and hotly contested in the state. Conservative Republican Maria Syms had a much better chance of being one of the top two vote getters if she was the only Republican on the ballot. And for a while, she was. When moderate Republican Kathy Petsas entered the race the political calculus got more complicated, and Syms found herself with much less of a sure thing. With the Republican support potentially split and facing more moderate choice appearing on the ballot, Maria Syms will have a much tougher fight for another term.
According to Blog for Arizona, Maria Syms has had a longstanding feud with her fellow Republicans in LD28, Petsas and Senator Kate Brophy McGee. Was that feud the reason Mark Syms, who appears to have never run for office previously, suddenly entered the race as an independent for the LD28 Senate race?
As a political newcomer running as an independent, Mark Syms has almost zero chance of winning. But he can be a spoiler. And if he has similar political positions as his wife Maria Syms, there’s a good chance he could be a spoiler for the Republican candidate. This would hand the election and a key seat in the State Senate to the Democrats.
But there is more than just this speculation for wondering how genuine Mark Syms’ candidacy is. If he is actually trying to win, he is going about it in a very odd way.
Unlike most independents, Mark Syms had enough spare cash to employ a professional petitioning gatherers so he could get on the ballot at the last minute. This company got the 2,156 signatures he needed (which is the source of his current problem – see below).
But while Mark Syms is willing to burn cash on signatures, he has failed to do many of the routine things candidates do. For example, News Growl has been unable to find a Mark Syms campaign website, campaign Facebook page, or a campaign Twitter account.
Mark Syms has also been surprisingly media shy for a candidate. Or rather, Maria Syms has been keeping him from talking to interested journalists.
Got one question in before Maria cut off the interview. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/R1svNnkEQV
— Ben Giles (@ben_giles) 30 May 2018
If what appears to be the case to many Arizona politics observers is true, Maria Syms is willing to use her husband to give a significant advantage to the Democrats in a key State Senate race. It is a very odd thing for a Republican to do.
Senator Kate Brophy McGee is fighting back, however. Or rather, like Maria Syms, she has convinced her husband Robert McGee to fight back for her. Seriously.
McGee’s husband sues to keep Syms’ husband off ballot
Just when it appeared this story could not get any weirder or internecine, it did.
On Tuesday Robert McGee filed a lawsuit asking a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to remove Mark Syms from the ballot (the ballot his wife will be appearing on) in November.
The suit alleges that 914 of the 2,156 signatures Mark Syms submitted were forged. “the nomination petition appears to have been the vehicle for the most extensive and pervasive petition fraud scheme in recent Arizona history,” the lawsuit claims.
If local media reports are to be believed, the allegation appears to be true.
“I intentionally don’t sign those things,” said one Arizona voter named on the petition, Nicholas Long. “I don’t even know who Mark Syms is.”
Mark Syms himself is instead casting himself as the mark of an unscrupulous signature gathering firm rather than contesting the lawsuit’s allegations.
“I am saddened to be a victim of fraud,” he said in a statement. “As the others in the LD28 races did, I hired a company to gather some of my signatures. I have demanded a refund from this company.”
If Robert McGee’s lawsuit is successful, Republicans would certainly have a better chance of holding on to the Senate seat in LD28.
Whatever the result of Robert McGee’s lawsuit, Maria Syms is still facing a tough race for her old House seat.
And, hard to believe as it is, the 2018 Arizona Legislature elections have became even more dramatic than they were already. Who would have thought it possible?