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Ugenti-Rita jumps to commanding lead

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, shares a laugh at the Arizona Technology Innovation Summit at The Duce on March 20, 2019. Detractors of the 10-year incumbent include both sides of the abortion divide and fellow Republican lawmakers as she defends her seat against a well-financed primary opponent. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, shares a laugh at the Arizona Technology Innovation Summit at The Duce on March 20, 2019. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita appears to have a weathered a sexual harassment scandal and holds an overwhelming lead over her GOP primary opponent, Scottsdale attorney Alex Kolodin, in Legislative District 23.

Ugenti-Rita had nearly 61% of the vote to 39% for Kolodin shortly after 8 p.m.

The race continued attacks levied on Ugenti-Rita in 2018, when then-opponent Tim Jeffries plastered scandalous allegations about Ugenti-Rita on mailers. After whispers that Ugenti-Rita and her current husband, former House staffer Brian Townsend, had solicited a lobbyist for a threesome became quotable excerpts from court depositions this year, Kolodin had much more ammo than Jeffries ever did.

He and his allies sought to ensure that voters pictured Ugenti-Rita laying supine on a bar while a lobbyist drank alcohol from her belly button, or confronting the lobbyist outside a bathroom at an event and calling her a liar, as described in the depositions.

Ugenti-Rita, meanwhile, has used the COVID-19 pandemic and a related push for mail voting as an opportunity to burnish her reputation as an election security hawk and proponent of limited government. She sought to end the state of emergency declared by Gov. Doug Ducey and immediately reopen Arizona, and she’s fought hard against attempts from a bipartisan group of election officials to expand mail voting.

Ugenti-Rita’s national reputation for adding barriers to ballots adds to her popularity among Republicans, and she used that reputation to draw a distinction between herself and Kolodin, who once represented a progressive activist accused of ballot harvesting in a defamation case against a GOP activist.

But Kolodin received support from the social conservative wing of the party, including the Center for Arizona Policy and Reps. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, and Walt Blackman, R-Flagstaff. Ugenti-Rita has supported the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and expressed skepticism of some of the Center for Arizona Policy’s other proposals.

Ugenti-Rita will meet Seth Blattman, a Democrat and owner of a furniture factory, in November.

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