Angered by what she considered a procedural snub, State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita joined with Democrats on Tuesday to kill another Republican election integrity bill, plunging the Senate back into crisis that engulfed not just the bill she wanted to kill, but two of her own bills as well.
Ugenti-Rita is Chairwoman of the Senate Government Committee, which often hears election related bills. She has used her platform both to position herself for her current run for Secretary of State, but also to try to impede any legislation that might aid a potential campaign by State Senator Kelly Townsend, who had also considered a run (Townsend recently announced she was not running for Secretary of State.)
The women’s long-running feud had nearly derailed other important election related legislation earlier in the year, but Ugenti-Rita reignited things on a day when many hoped the Senate might start completing its work and Sine Die for the year.
At issue were several election integrity measures that Townsend had sponsored and that Ugenti-Rita had killed earlier in the session. Townsend succeeded in getting them passed as amendments to another bill while it was in the State House, and with the Senate poised to pass the amended House bill, Ugenti balked, insisting that she would only support the bill if Townsend’s additions were struck out in a conference committee.
“It is insane,” remarked a Capitol observer who was watching the proceedings, “Ugenti-Rita is campaigning like she’s all about election integrity while she is single-handedly trying to strip important election integrity stuff out of a bill, just because she’s got some grudge against Townsend that she just can’t let go of.”
“It is lose lose for Ugenti-Rita,” said another, adding “She looks petty and reinforces everything bad about her general reputation, all while gutting election reforms that she should instead be campaigning on having voted for. This is a gift for Finchem and Bolick.” (State Representatives Mark Finchem and Shawnna Bolick are also running for Secretary of State)
Making matters worse for Ugenti-Rita, Townsend reacted to her bill being killed by killing a Ugenti-Rita bill, meaning the majority of the election integrity measures Republican voters in particular are looking for failed to pass today.