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Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has been accused of sexual harassment, has new opponent

Posted at 3:12 PM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 20:45:02-05

PHOENIX — Republican Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation, has a new challenger in the Republican primary.

Adam Kwasman, a partner at Wagner & Kwasman in Phoenix, announced he'll be running against Ugenti-Rita this week.

"You're going to get conservative leadership. You're going to support President Trump. You're going to make sure we support free markets and are pro-life and make sure we support the Second Amendment, but you don't have to worry about who's out at night and what they're doing," he said.

Kwasman was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 and unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2014. The lawyer said he's the best choice to represent Republicans in Legislative District 23, which encompasses all of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.

"Michelle Ugenti's behavior has been reprehensible. Frankly, she should resign for what she's done and what she's accused of," said Kwasman. "She forgot who she worked for a long time ago. We want to restore ethical leadership so we make sure we maintain majorities in the Senate and not have her be a drag on the entire Republican caucus."

In 2018, Ugenti-Rita accused Representative Don Shooter of sexual harassment. In a lawsuit recently filed by the shooter, new details came to light about Ugenti-Rita's role in that investigation.

A female lobbyist, in a sworn deposition, accused Ugenti-Rita of sexual harassment and intimidation. The lobbyist said she was made to endure unwanted sexual advances by Ugenti-Rita and her then-boyfriend, now-husband Brian Townsend. At the time, Townsend was a policy advisor to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

The lobbyist said she received a number of sexually explicit photographs from Townsend which included Ugenti-Rita. The woman said one of these photos included a text message she believed was a solicitation for a threesome, with Townsend “referring to a woman and all of us being together.”

Ugenti-Rita has said she had no knowledge of the photos until much later.

So far, the Republican-controlled Senate has said they will not open an investigation. "LD 23 is already in jeopardy for the Republicans. If they nominate a candidate embroiled in a scandal like Michelle Ugenti is, we're going to lose that seat," said Kwasman.

An analysis of election data shows that support for the embattled state senator would have to collapse entirely in the district for the Democrats to have a shot at the seat.

Data shows that Ugenti-Rita beat her Democratic opponent in 2018 by more than 20,000 votes (57 to 38). In 2016, Democrats didn’t even field a candidate for the office, but Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the district 54 to 41.

As it looks now, if Ugenti-Rita is to lose the Senate seat, it would be Kwasman that would take it from her.

Ugenti-Rita declined an interview or comment when ABC15 reached out.

ABC15 reached out to the Arizona Republican Party. AZGOP Communications Director Zachery Henry gave us this statement:

"Obviously, we don't get involved in primary races. We are pleased to see that all of our members of Congress and our state legislators are eager to support the President and the policies he's implemented that have put American workers and their families first."