Republican state senator who criticized Arizona audit targeted with threat

The Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita speaks in not in favor of calling an end to the annual legislative session on May 8, 2020.
Ray Stern
Arizona Republic

A Republican state senator who has criticized the ongoing review of the 2020 election was threatened in an email sent the same day a prominent conspiracy theorist urged his followers to contact her.

The Sept. 9 email to Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, begins with a racial slur.

It goes on to say, "You have one chance to give the American people the Audit report or were [sic] coming for you, we know where you live, we know where you get groceries, and we know where your family lives. You better do the right thing or your [sic] going to feel the consequences. You Understand? We the people are no longer willing to play."

It's only the latest threat against an Arizona public official since Trump lost the November election here, sparking a backlash by supporters across the country who demanded a review of the results.

After the audit began in April, someone sent Senate President Karen Fann a letter with a suspicious substance inside, prompting an investigation by the state Department of Public Safety. Katie Hobbs, the Democratic Secretary of State, was assigned Department of Public Safety protection in May after receiving death threats related to the election for a second time. After November's election, protesters came to her home, chanting "we are watching you."

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, and the mostly Republican, five-member county Board of Supervisors have also received threats related to the audit.

Ugenti-Rita has backed election laws 

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, sits in the Senate at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix on Monday, May 27, 2019.

Ugenti-Rita is in her second term as a state senator, having previously served in the State House since 2011, and is running for secretary of state. She has supported Republican election reform for years and sponsored the bill creating the state's "ballot harvesting" ban that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in July.

But after a dispute with fellow state Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, over election bills earlier this year, Ugenti-Rita found herself booed off the stage by angry Trump supporters during a Turning Point Action event on July 24. Hours later, she posted on social media that the "audit has been botched" and lamented a "total lack of competence" by Fann.

Arizona audit updates:Many documents released by Senate inconsequential

It's unknown what prompted the threat against Ugenti-Rita, but the same day, prominent election conspiracy supporter Seth Keshel referred to the July 24 event and told his approximately 150,000 followers on Telegram to get "answers" from her on a local effort by Trump supporters to canvass voters about the election.

Ugenti-Rita said she sent the threat letter to law enforcement.

"My family’s safety is my #1 priority & I will NOT tolerate anyone going after me or my family," she wrote Friday on Twitter. "Due to misinformation & the unmet expectations of the public surrounding the audit, threats like this will unfortunately continue."

DPS spokesperson Bart Graves said the agency's threat mitigation unit is reviewing the email but he couldn't say more about it.

Fann released a statement about an unspecified threat prior to Ugenti-Rita's social media post.

"No matter where a person stands on the issue of an audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, or any other matter of public policy, making a threat to a legislator or their family is completely unacceptable," Fann wrote, adding that legislators will report any such threats to authorities.

Neither Fann nor Ugenti-Rita returned a message seeking further comment.

Reach the reporter at Follow him on Twitter @raystern.