Lawmakers: The atmosphere in the Arizona legislature has become more toxic | Kingman Daily Miner

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PHOENIX – The press release from Senate Speaker Karen Fann of September 10 was short on details but clear on one point – a senator had received some threat regarding the Senate audit of the 2020 elections in Maricopa County.

Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, later revealed that she was the target of the threat. Ugenti-Rita, one of the few Republican senators to publicly criticize the audit, said she went public to call attention to the volatile environment and in the hope of protecting everyone.

While threats of harm, inflammatory messages and acts of intimidation can be part of heated public policy debates, his colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that today’s atmosphere is more toxic than ‘it wasn’t before, reports the Arizona Capitol Times.

And the responses of Fann and Ugenti-Rita illustrate the different approaches taken by lawmakers to work in such an environment.

Fann said she generally does not publicly discuss messages that threaten herself or other lawmakers because she believes it draws more attention to negativity and generates more angry emails.

“The reason I had to take the presser out was because I had a member who had one and pretty much demanded that I post something to say it wasn’t acceptable,” he said. she declared. “And I said, ‘Alright, I’ll be happy to do that; that’s not acceptable, ”but, you know, personally I think the more attention you bring to it the more you just feed it. That’s all.”

Ugenti-Rita said that on September 9, she received a deluge of volatile emails accusing her of delaying the audit, but an email with poor grammar and spelling told her to “give the American people the audit report or to pick you up ”.

The writer, an audit supporter who went by the name of “Matt Boster,” addressed the senator with an ethnic insult and curse and said he knew where the senator and her family lived and where she was doing. his errands.

Ugenti-Rita said the general tone of the emails made her fear that something serious was going to happen.

“It’s something deeper, part of a larger feeling that’s brewing,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios said emails like the one Ugenti-Rita reported to police have become much more common.

“Over the years the politics have become so much uglier and the nature of the emails we receive is ridiculous,” said Rios, D-Phoenix. “There are occasions when we redirect phone calls or emails to DPS. “

Fann said she had “absolutely” noticed a significant increase in mean and threatening emails this year that include “every four or five letter word you can think of.”

“The emails I have received from Democrats over the past few months have been really disgusting to some extent,” Fann said.

Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the judiciary committee, said threats are never appropriate, but he doesn’t think this year has demanded more than usual.

Throughout his tenure, he said he saw an ebb and flow, Petersen said. Some issues, such as auditing, draw more intensity from angry voters.

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen this myself – I get a lot of choice messages,” Petersen said. “I’m not used to talking about it or broadcasting it, but it’s something I’ve seen over the years.”

Senator TJ Shope, R-Coolidge, said that while he did not know if there were more threats to elected officials than before, there was much more “general villainy”.

He said that worried him because it might discourage the right people from running for office. He blames the last two presidential elections, and the way the losers responded to them, for the poisonous climate.

“In 2016, after Trump’s victory, you saw a lot of meanness in general, just hatred from the left towards him and his movement,” Shope said. “You go forward four years to 2020, you basically see the same thing going in the opposite direction. I think it kind of starts from the top in that sense.

A slew of threats this year have come from people who apparently believe the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. After Senator Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, joined Democrats in voting against the contempt of Maricopa County supervisors in February for refusing to hand over documents the Senate wanted as part of its review of the results of the elections, he was inundated with harassment and threats over the phone. calls and emails. He obtained police protection and temporarily left his home.

Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and her staff have also been harassed and threatened, and Hobbs has also sometimes sought police protection.

She regularly referred to it to explain why she should be elected governor.

“I fought against disinformation and even death threats to defend the Arizona election,” she recently tweeted.

Protesters who wanted to overturn the election results showed up at the home of Hobbs and House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa.

Shope called protesters to his home in May, angry at his opposition to a bill that would have banned private companies from asking for proof of vaccination. Shope said there was once an understanding that people’s homes were off-limits.

“I guess the lesson for the day now is that there are no limits, and that’s not good in the long run,” Shope said.


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