Nina Mae Becker

How does a woman declared mentally incompetent at this time to stand trial on 15 criminal charges related to fraudulent conduct in the 2020 election end up being days away from having her name on the Republican primary ballot for Congress?

Nina Mae Becker has been ordered to appear in Maricopa County Superior Court this week to address an election challenge filed in connection with her 2022 candidacy for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is also currently being prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in connection with a similar campaign in 2020.

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In the criminal case, six of the charges against Becker, 59, are felonies. The prosecution was put on hold March 10 when Becker was deemed “not competent but restorable” by Judge Nicolas Hoskins after several months of evaluations. Becker was then ordered by Hoskins to undergo out-of-custody competency restoration treatment.

Yet within weeks of Becker’s mental competency hearing, she filed several hundred clearly questionable signatures on nominating petitions in an attempt to get her name -as Nina “La Nina” Becker- on the Republican primary ballot for the newly redrawn Congressional District 7 against longtime conservative Luis Pozzolo.

The winner goes up against Democrat incumbent Rep. Raul Grijalva to represent the new CD7 which covers most of Pima County, as well as the southern portions of Yuma, Maricopa, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Cochise counties.

Public records show the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office accepted Becker’s 2022 petitions despite multiple pages being written in the same handwriting. As a result, the only way to keep Becker’s name off the Aug. 2 primary ballot was for one or more voters to pay a fee to file an election challenge in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Which is exactly what Steven Robinson and Shelby Busch did last week. The two local activists are involved with the We the People Arizona Alliance and were well acquainted with Becker through an election challenge they and then-candidate Josh Barnett filed against her in advance of the 2020 Republican primary.

Like their 2020 lawsuit, the new one alleges Becker submitted petitions containing clearly forged -if not outright fake- voter signatures. This time they also allege many signatures on the circulator affidavits on the back of Becker’s petitions also appear to be phony.

Judge M. Scott McCoy has ordered the parties to appear in court April 25 for a pretrial conference in advance of an April 26 election challenge trial.

The current lawsuit filed by Busch and Robinson is not much different from the one they filed in 2020 when Becker sought to have her name appear on the Republican primary ballot against Barnett. Nearly 700 of her 967 nomination petition signatures were eventually deemed invalid by the Maricopa County Recorder.

It was that case which led to Becker’s indictment by a state grand jury in October 2020. A motion for a mental health evaluation filed in March 2021 then took a year to complete, according to court records. The criminal prosecution will move forward once Becker is restored to competency.

For his part, Pozzolo is trying to stay focused on a showdown with Grijalva in November, but admits to frustration that neither the Attorney General’s Office nor Secretary of State Katie Hobbs took steps to protect the public from Becker given the issues raised by the criminal prosecution.

On April 7, Pozzolo called on Attorney General Mark Brnovich to further investigate Becker’s conduct and determine who is acting in the shadows with her.

“She is not alone. She is mentally ill but has been used for somebody else – we want to know who is behind it,” Pozzolo recently said.

Part of Pozzolo’s concern is based on a 2020 recorded conversation between Becker and one of Barnett’s campaign supporters. Becker claimed she was recruited to run against Barnett in the primary by someone who had done a lot of planning and who would finance her campaign.

“They wanted a woman; they wanted a woman who spoke Spanish. They wanted a woman with a Spanish-sounding name,” Becker said on the recording. “My ex-husband has the ability to make it rain. You understand what that means?”

At one point, Becker said in the 2020 recording that her ex-husband “is a professional strategist for the Republican National Committee.” But some Republicans suspect Becker, despite her mental health issues, has been used as a red herring to distract voters from strong Republican candidates.

It is unclear whether Becker will face additional criminal charges based on the outcome of Tuesday’s election challenge trial. There are also legal questions about a report filed last year with the Federal Election Commission which claim the Becker for Arizona Committee received more than $970,000 in contributions.

The veracity of the FEC report filed in July 2021 by someone using the name Brooks Lewis has not been confirmed, but one entry on the report raises particular concern for Pozzolo, a naturalized citizen who emigrated from Uruguay.

A $5,000 campaign donation is listed for Becker from the political action committee Showing Up for Racial Justice which identifies itself as “a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial and economic justice.”

The group’s website includes several derisive comments about conservatives, so it is unclear why they would give $5,000 to Becker to run in a Republican primary unless it was intended to weaken Pozzolo’s candidacy.

“General Brnovich must launch an immediate investigation into the potential fraud occurring in this race,” Pozzolo said earlier this month, adding that “those in authority should do everything in their power to make sure that all elections are free of fraud and manipulation.”

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