Republicans Rumble in Final Forum for Arizona Sec State and Treasurer

The grassroots organization America Pack put on its last Republican primary debate Friday night, featuring the candidates for Arizona Secretary of State followed by the candidates for Arizona State Treasurer. During the first debate, Secretary of State candidate and current State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) took an aggressive stance toward her opponents, and her fellow Republicans responded in kind. 

During the second debate, State Representative Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) went after the sitting treasurer, Kimberly Yee, who responded back just as feistily.

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Arizona Legislature Considering ‘Build Back Broke’ Type of Budget with Earmarks, Funding for School Social Workers, and Government Employee Pay Raises

The Arizona Legislature is rushing to pass a budget before the 2022 session ends in a few days on June 30, but some Republican legislators are balking at agreeing to vote for the 12 budget bills due to the amount of spending, $17.9 billion. State Sen. Michelle Ugenti (R-Scottsdale) tweeted on Monday, “Arizona’s version of @JoeBiden’s Build Back Broke (aka the legislature’s introduced budget) is not fiscally responsible. You cannot spend your way out of a looming recession.”

She objected to the budget adding an extra half a billion dollars. “I can’t think of anything more fiscally irresponsible than spending recklessly on member pet projects while Arizonans struggle to keep up with crushing inflation,” she tweeted. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona called the budget “bloated and wasteful.” 

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‘Maricopa County Transit Slush Fund Tax’ Looks ‘Optimistic’ for Legislative Referral to the Ballot

A transportation bill dubbed the “Maricopa County Transit Slush Fund Tax” by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) is steadily advancing through the legislature, and its supporters say it will probably make it through the Arizona Legislature this year in a referral to the ballot. Senate Bill (SB) 1356 has passed the Senate, the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee, and the House Transportation Committee. Valley Metro’s new CEO Jessica Mefford-Miller said this week about it, “We are cautiously optimistic about SB 1356.”

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Two Arizona GOP State Senators Vote with Democrats to Kill Election Integrity Bills

Republican State Senators Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) and Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) defeated several key election integrity bills in the Arizona Legislature as the only Republicans siding with Democrats. Republicans have a one-seat majority in the Senate, and since Boyer has angered Republicans for frequently voting with the Democrats against bills and thwarting election integrity efforts, he will not be seeking a third term after this year’s session. Former President Donald Trump endorsed former State Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale), a champion of election integrity, to replace him.

SB 1055, sponsored by State Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Apache Junction), made any contractor who failed to provide election services or products guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor and liable for liquidated damages of the amount of the contract. Boyer was the only Republican to oppose it.

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‘Easier to Vote, Harder to Cheat Act’ Seeks to Get on Ballot in Arizona

Over 70 election integrity-related bills have been proposed in the Arizona Legislature since the highly questioned 2020 election, as well as ballot initiatives. Lee Miller, a former attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, recently filed paperwork launching a petition drive to get the “Easier to Vote, Harder to Cheat Act” as an initiative on the ballot this fall. The initiative makes it easier to vote in four ways and harder to cheat in five ways. One of the provisions would shorten the time allowed for tabulating ballots.

Valerie Grosso-Turley, founder of the grassroots Arizona-based America Pack, looked at the initiative and told the Arizona Sun Times, “With the continued skepticism of the 2020 election still top of mind of many voters, Arizona’s extended ballot-counting process adds to the distrust and suspicion of voters. Every voter must have confidence in our elections regardless of party affiliation. Polling has consistently shown that a majority of Republicans believe Biden won through fraud. I don’t know if the ‘easier to vote, harder to cheat act’ is the solution, but I do support the ongoing conversation to find a solution.” 

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Maricopa County Audit Supporter Threatens Arizona GOP Lawmaker

A Republican member of the Arizona Legislature says her family’s safety is her first priority after getting a threatening email over her scrutiny of Maricopa County’s 2020 election. 

State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, posted a screenshot of an email from an account named Matt Boster that started out by calling her a racial slur.

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Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Two Arizona Voting Laws, Claiming Voter Suppression

A coalition of groups filed a lawsuit against two voting laws passed in the last session, arguing that the statutes could disenfranchise thousands of voters. 

Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Coalition for Change, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), and Chispa Arizona alleged in the lawsuit filed on Aug. 17 that the bills “violate the right of all Arizonans to vote.”

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Federal Court Dismisses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Against State Legislature for Wrongful Expulsion over Sexual Harassment Claims

A federal court dismissed a lawsuit filed by former State Representative Donald Shooter claiming that his expulsion from the legislature due to sexual harassment allegations was conspired. Circuit Court Judge Daniel Collins issued the ruling last Thursday in the case, Donald Shooter v. State of Arizona, et al.

Shooter alleged that former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and current state senator, J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), and Governor Doug Ducey’s former chief of staff, Kirk Adams, orchestrated his expulsion from the legislature. He claimed that he was targeted while serving as the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman after he attempted to investigate further the possibility that the state was engaging in no-bid contracts for technology purchases. Due to this, Shooter asserted that he was deprived of equal opportunity and due process. Collins dismissed the case for a failure to state a claim: the judge found no plausible inference of sex discrimination, and opined that no due process claim could be present because Mesnard and Adams were entitled to qualified immunity.

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Crom Carmichael Dissects Legislature in Regards to Absentee Ballots, Vote Harvesting and Drop Boxes

Friday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael in studio to compare legislation related to absentee ballots, voter harvesting, and dropbox placement.

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Court Issues Mixed Opinion on Former State Rep Shooter’s Defamation Suit: Mesnard Immunity Does Not Cover the Press Release

Don Shooter

The Arizona Supreme Court issued an opinion Wednesday dismissing part of a defamation lawsuit by expelled Arizona legislator Don Shooter against Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) on Wednesday, while allowing the remaining part of the case to proceed.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) complained in 2017 when she was in the state House that Shooter, a Republican from Litchfield Park, sexually harassed her, resulting in the legislature removing him in 2018. He sued then-House speaker Mesnard, who introduced a bill to remove Shooter, over a press release and 82-page investigative report Mesnard issued about the expulsion. Shooter accused him of defamation and materially altering the investigative report.

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