Kit Bond, a former governor of Missouri and U.S. senator, formally endorsed Josh Hawley on Wednesday in the Republican primary for attorney general.
“He’s a talented constitutional lawyer who is well equipped to represent our great state in court,” Bond said in a prepared statement.
Hawley, a University of Missouri law professor, is facing off in the primary against Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer, also of Columbia. The two have engaged in a spirited — and at times ugly — campaign that has involved ethics complaints, lawsuits and allegations of corruption.
The endorsement from Bond comes shortly after Schaefer began running TV ads criticizing Hawley for writing a legal brief making the case that the United States shouldn’t designate the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran as a terrorist organization.
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Bond has voiced strong support for the Mojahedin, along with other prominent Missouri Republicans like former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft and current U.S. senator Roy Blunt.
The group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the Iranian government. It was responsible for the killings of Americans throughout the 1970s.
It eventually renounced violence and began working with the United States in opposition to the current government of Iran, and in 2012 the U.S. removed the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran from the list of terrorist organizations.
Schaefer has brushed off criticism of the ad, saying Hawley’s decision to help the Mojahedin demonstrates a lack of judgment.
“It would be like if ISIS said, ‘We’re not going to kill anyone anymore, so can you please take us off the terrorist watch list?’” Schaefer said. “Choosing to represent a group that killed American servicemen and killed U.S. citizens, which is undisputed, is inconsistent with the judgment it takes to be the attorney general of the state of Missouri. It’s as simple as that.”
Hawley’s campaign points out that the ad has been criticized publicly by former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton.