Government & Politics

McCaskill says likely challenger Josh Hawley voted illegally or violated residency rule

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, talked with reporters at an event Thursday in Warrensburg, Mo.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, talked with reporters at an event Thursday in Warrensburg, Mo.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill accused Missouri’s top law enforcement officer, who is weighing a campaign against her, of violating a state law that requires the attorney general to reside in Jefferson City.

Attorney General Josh Hawley, who has been heavily recruited by Vice President Mike Pence and other Republican leaders to run against McCaskill in 2018, has faced questions about his residency since taking office in January.

The controversy resurfaced this week when the Jefferson City News Tribune reported that Hawley voted in Boone County in the Aug. 8 election. Jefferson City is in Cole County.

McCaskill, a Democrat facing re-election in a state that President Donald Trump won by double digits, weighed in on the issue when talking to reporters at a Thursday event in Warrensburg.

“The law’s pretty clear. There’s never been an attorney general in the history of our state that hasn’t lived in Jefferson City because the law says ‘shall.’ Listen, I’m a Mizzou-educated lawyer, but I can keep up and I know what the word ‘shall’ means in the law,” said McCaskill, a former Jackson County prosecutor.

“And I know he went to Yale, I think, or Harvard — one of those, one of those fancy ones — I think they taught him the same thing that shall means shall,” McCaskill said of Hawley, who obtained his law degree from Yale University.

“So if it’s shall then you must live in Jefferson City … so there’s a problem here,” McCaskill said. “Either he’s violating the law by not living in Jefferson City or he’s violating the law by voting in some place he doesn’t live. One of the two.”

Scott Paradise, Hawley’s political spokesman, called McCaskill’s criticism a political smear.

“I am sure she has something better to do than manufacture bogus campaign attacks,” Paradise said in an email.

“Here are the facts,” Paradise said. “Josh lives and votes in Boone County. When he rented an apartment in Jefferson City, he made it clear that his family’s home in Boone County, which is just 20 minutes from the state capitol, would remain his primary residence.”

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill discusses how tension in the Trump administration could impact the upcoming debt ceiling debate. She also reacts to White House strategist Steve Bannon's interview with The American Prospect.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3