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Missouri Attorney General Hawley addresses Democrats' residency concerns, rents apartment

Josh Hawley takes part in a debate.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Attorney General Josh Hawley says he has called "the Democrats' bluff" on the issue of residency in Jefferson City.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley says he has rented an apartment in Jefferson City, to end accusations from Democrats that he has been violating state law by commuting from his home in Columbia.

At issue is a phrase in state law that requires the Missouri attorney general to reside “at the seat of government.”

Hawley, a Republican, reiterated Thursday to St. Louis Public Radio that he and his legal team remain convinced he was not breaking any laws, and that Columbia was close enough. He accused Democrats of conducting “a sideshow issue’’ to distract  from more important matters.

To put the issue to rest, Hawley said, “I have decided to call the Democrats’ bluff on this," renting a two-bedroom apartment within the Jefferson City limits. He said he plans on using the apartment when he is working late, but the quarters is large enough that his wife and two children can also stay there.

“I will stay there as needed to make it a true personal residence (for legal purposes,)” Hawley said.

He emphasized that his primary home will remain in Columbia, which he added “is 17 minutes away’’ from his office.

Hawley’s predecessor, Democrat Chris Koster, had apartments in Jefferson City and St. Louis.

Assistant House Minority Leader Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, replied in a statement: “… Hawley said he ‘decided to call Democrats’ bluff on this.’ Hawley has it backwards. He claimed for weeks that the law didn’t apply to him but now he’s complying with it. Somebody blinked here, and it wasn’t us.”

Attorney general revamps, replaces staff

All of the senior staff in the attorney general’s office has been replaced, Hawley said. Koster had retained many people who'd worked for fellow Democrat and the former attorney general, Jay Nixon.

Hawley also said he has revamped operations to set up a new “federalism unit’’ that focuses on federal and regulatory issues. John Sauer will head that unit, in addition to being Hawley’s top staff assistant. Sauer's new title is “state solicitor general.”

Sauer previously had been a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Hawley said he is hiring several other lawyers for the unit, as well as for other operations in the attorney general’s office.

“We have replaced all of the senior leadership,’’ Hawley said.

The federal unit is overseeing three major federal suits filed so far to challenge federal regulations or mandates that affect Missouri. A number of sections have been merged so that the office now will have two legal divisions — civil and criminal. Darrell Moore, the veteran Greene County prosecutor, will oversee the criminal division, Hawley said.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.