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State Rep. Aaron Lieberman is running for governor, joining an increasingly crowded Democratic primary field.
Lieberman is the third candidate in the race. He joins Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, and Marco Lopez, the former mayor of Nogales and director of the old Arizona Department of Commerce. All are running to replace Gov. Doug Ducey, who is barred by term limits from running in 2022.
The second-term lawmaker from Paradise Valley said he’s running because “our politics are broken” and he believes he can remedy the problem by bringing together his experiences in the private sector and state government.
“I just think we need a new way and a different approach. Frankly, my experience outside the legislature I think lends itself to what the next governor of Arizona needs to really be able to do, and that’s bringing people together from all different backgrounds, getting them focused on a vision bigger than ourselves, and then executive on that vision and making good things happen for the people of the state of Arizona,” Lieberman told the Arizona Mirror.
An Arizona native who graduated from Brophy College Prep before receiving his B.A. in English and international studies from Yale, Lieberman has spent much of his career in education-related ventures.
In 1994 he founded Jumpstart, a nonprofit group that connected students in Head Start, a federal program for low-income children, with tutoring services. He founded Acelero Learning in 2002, a for-profit company that runs child care centers for low-income families around the country. He said the company, which he ran as CEO for 13 years before transitioning to board chairman, is largely funded by Head Start, and runs nearly 50 child care centers. It also provides its “tools and approaches” to programs in 30 other states, he said.
More recently, Lieberman spent two years as CEO of Phoenix Spine, and in 2017 became a partner with New Start, which he described as a venture philanthropy firm that works to improve child care programs.
Lieberman was first elected to the legislature in 2018, ousting a Republican incumbent as the Democrats for the first time won both House seats in District 28, a center-right district that covers Paradise Valley and affluent areas of north-central and east Phoenix. Democrats took the rare move of running candidates for both of the district’s House seats that year, abandoning their traditional “single shot” strategy in which they run only one candidate in a district that marginally favors the GOP. He won re-election in 2020.
Lieberman likely has a tough road ahead of him. Hobbs, who has become a nationally prominent figure due to her outspoken criticism of the Arizona Senate’s self-styled audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, is the clear frontrunner in the Democratic primary, and raised a million dollars in the opening weeks of her campaign.
Nonetheless, Lieberman wouldn’t describe his campaign as an underdog or longshot.
“I like the position where I’m standing, honestly. We’ve got a long way to go before the primary and the general election. I think Arizonans, and particularly Democrats, they want a candidate who can win in the general election, and that’s the most important. And I think that’s what people are really going to be looking for, and I think my combination of experience inside and outside the legislature gives me a unique opportunity to win statewide,” he said.
On the Republican side, former Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake, businessman Steve Gaynor, developer and regent Karrin Taylor Robson, former Congressman Matt Salmon and state Treasurer Kimberly Yee are running for governor.
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