Josh Hawley walked away from a cash-rich Republican primary Tuesday defeating Kurt Schaefer for the party’s nomination for attorney general. He’ll face Democrat Teresa Hensley in November.
The Republican attorney general’s race was an often brutal contest that doubled as a political proxy war between two GOP benefactors. Hawley had received about $1.75 million from Joplin businessman David Humphreys and his family. Schaefer’s campaign took in more than $2 million from Rex Sinquefield and campaign committees that he funds.
The Democratic race was less testy and came with a nail-biter finish after former prosecutor Hensley entered the race relatively late against Jake Zimmerman, a St. Louis county official who talked about protecting senior citizens, fighting identity theft and enforcing equal pay laws. Hensley said during the primary that she would bring more practical legal experience to the job than her intra-party rival.
In other races, Jay Ashcroft took the Republican primary for Missouri secretary of state after a bruising GOP contest with Will Kraus. He’ll face off in November against Robin Smith. Chris Morrill was unopposed for the Libertarian Party nomination.
The contest for state treasurer saw former state legislator Judy Baker win the Democratic primary over Pat Contreras, a first-time candidate from Kansas City. Baker will face Eric Schmitt, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination. Sean O’Toole will represent the Libertarians in the general election.
Former congressman Russ Carnahan won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, setting up a fall showdown with Republican Mike Parson, a state senator and former Polk County sheriff. Libertarian Steven Hedrick was unopposed in his primary.
The flood of money from Sinquefield and Humphreys helped pay for sparring campaign commercials in the Republican attorney general’s race, including a pair of attack ads from Schaefer that accused Hawley, a University of Missouri law professor, of providing legal assistance to terrorists. Hawley had written a legal brief arguing the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran shouldn’t be designated as a terrorist group. Meanwhile, Hawley aired an ad using old footage of Schaefer describing himself as a moderate.
Both Republicans are lawyers from Columbia. Hawley is a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk. Schaefer has been in the Missouri Senate since 2008 and is a partner with the Lathrop & Gage law firm in Kansas City.
Hawley dismissed the notion that the race was a contest of Sinquefield and Humphreys money. Rather, he saw it as a win for a political newcomer.
“The people want a conservative outsider,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “They want someone who hasn’t spent their whole life in politics.”
That, he said, would help him in the general election fight.
The Democratic race featured Zimmerman, the St. Louis County assessor and a former assistant attorney general and deputy general counsel to former Gov. Bob Holden, and Hensley, of Raymore, who spent 10 years as Cass County prosecutor and lost a bid for Congress in 2012.
David Woodruff, Hensley’s campaign manager, said his candidate won because she successfully argued to voters that she would be “the people’s attorney.”
“The theme isn’t going to change a lot in the general election,” he said. “She’s going to fight for the people of Missouri.”
Zimmerman said the primary showed Democratic voters “may be divided about what the name will be on the ballot, but they want a commitment to fairness and reforming the culture of corruption in Jefferson City.”
In the secretary of state’s race, Ashcroft’s win wraps up a tough intra-party fight. Ashcroft is the son of John Ashcroft, the former Missouri governor, U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general. Kraus is an Army veteran who served three terms in the Missouri House before being elected to the state Senate in 2010. The secretary of state runs elections, keeps records and can be a stepping stone to higher office.
The two Republicans dueled over who’d worked harder to pass a stricter voter identification law. Kraus had financial backing from Sinquefield. Humphreys was behind Ashcroft.
The Republican Ashcroft will now likely clash over that issue in the general election with Smith, a former reporter and anchor at KMOV-TV St. Louis.
Parson and Carnahan will now fight for the lieutenant governor’s job, an office that traditionally plays two roles — to provide a ready replacement if the governor dies or leaves office, and as a rung on the political ladder to the governorship or higher office.
Carnahan comes from a family that’s been a fixture in Missouri politics for a generation. His father was a governor of the state. His mother served in the U.S. Senate from Missouri and his sister was once the Missouri secretary of state. The resulting name recognition gives him some advantage over Parson beyond Polk County and his state senate district.