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Politically Speaking: AG hopeful Josh Hawley on battling the 'Jefferson City cartel'

Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome attorney general hopeful Josh Hawley to the program.

Hawley is one of two Republicans running for attorney general. His GOP rival, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, was a guest on the podcast a few weeks ago.Two Democrats -- St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman and former Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley -- are also seeking the post. (Attorney General Chris Koster is running for governor, which means his office is up for grabs.)

The Hawley/Schaefer battle is arguably the liveliest primary contest in the state, with both men blasting each other for various reasons. (Hawley, by the way, contends that Schaefer started it.)

Hawley, 36, is a law professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He’s been on unpaid leave since last fall – a fact that has generated accusations from Schaefer that the university gave special treatment to Hawley.

Hawley says that’s not true, and cites other examples of Mizzou professors who were given leaves to run for office.

Hawley’s leave figures in a lawsuit that former state Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, filed against Hawley and the University of Missouri Board of Curators, among others. Elmer, who supports Schaefer, alleges that the university has delayed providing all the documents and emails related to Hawley’s leave that Elmer has requested under Missouri’s open-records law.

Elmer also accuses Hawley of using state resources, such as his office computer, to assist his campaign before officially going on leave last Sept. 1. Hawley denies any improprieties.

Elmer’s lawyer has denied that the suit has anything to do with Schaefer.

Hawley disagrees, and asserts that the suit is “the latest intimidation technique” by a pro-Schaefer “Jefferson City cartel” that is all about preserving power and blocking outsiders like Hawley.

Hawley says he turned over the requested documents, including his emails and his computer hard drive, to the university almost a year ago.

Among conservatives, Hawley is best known as part of the legal team that successfully fought the “Hobby Lobby case,’’ which challenged the mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act for employers to include contraceptive coverage in the insurance they provide employees. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby.

Among Hawley’s other comments during the podcast:

  • He acknowledges his expertise is as a “constitutional lawyer,’’ not a courtroom attorney. Hawley says that his experience as an appellate lawyer fits in with what the attorney general actually does.
  • He is proposing to set up special units within the attorney general’s office to focus on public corruption and to challenge overreach by the federal government.
  •  He believes he fits in with the public’s desire to get rid of status-quo politicians and start fresh.  In that scenario, Hawley sees his lack of political experience as a plus.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Josh Hawley: @HawleyMO

Music: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.