GOP state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita announces bid for Arizona secretary of state
State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita announced Wednesday that she will seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state in 2022.
The chair of the Senate Government Committee, the Scottsdale lawmaker already is near the center of the raging battle over election law in Arizona. The race could vault Ugenti-Rita into the role of Arizona’s top election official and make her second in line to the governor.
Ugenti-Rita was widely expected to enter the race after sponsoring some of the most high-profile and controversial election-related legislation at the Capitol in recent years. She sponsored a bill Gov. Doug Ducey signed this year, for example, that will require counties to remove voters from the permanent early voting list of those who do not vote early for two election cycles.
The lawmaker has argued that the measure is merely meant to ensure the list’s accuracy. But Democratic legislators, as well as the president and vice president of the Navajo Nation, denounced the bill as an effort to suppress voter turnout.
Ugenti-Rita has been a member of the Legislature since 2011. She served in the House of Representatives before winning a seat in the Senate in 2018.
She put a spotlight on the culture of the Legislature that year when she spoke out against what she described as a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior by then-Rep. Don Shooter, including remarks about her body and how she dressed.
The Legislature expelled Shooter. An ensuing legal battle put the culture of the state Capitol in the spotlight when a lobbyist said in a deposition she felt harassed and intimidated by Ugenti-Rita and her future husband after receiving sexually explicit photos of the couple from him.
The scandal didn't seem to dent her even when a primary election opponent seized on it. Ugenti-Rita handily won reelection last year.
Who else is in race for position
In the primary for secretary of state, the lawmaker will face state Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican from Oro Valley who supported throwing out Arizona’s presidential election results last year and was one of two sitting legislators at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, though he has denied any wrongdoing or entering the building.
About 50 prominent local businesspeople, including John Graham, Jerry Colangelo and Bill Post, recently signed on to a letter asking that Beau Lane also enter the race. Lane is executive chairman of the marketing firm LaneTerralever and opposed Ugenti-Rita’s election bill earlier this year.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, could run for a second term as secretary of state but is widely expected to seek the Governor's Office instead. That would leave the Democratic side wide open.
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