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Politically Speaking: Austin Petersen on standing out in an increasingly crowded U.S. Senate field

Austin Petersen
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Austin Petersen

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome Republican U.S. Senate candidate Austin Petersen to the program.

Petersen is one of 10 Republicans, so far, vying for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, a field that includes Attorney General Josh Hawley. The winner of that GOP primary will almost certainly square off against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat seeking a third term in office.

Back in 2016, Petersen sought to become the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. He came in second behind former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. The Peculiar, Missouri, native announced last year he would seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Since announcing his senatorial bid, Petersen has raised more than $300,000 — the second most amount of money behind Hawley. He also became one of the first federal candidates to accept Bitcoin donations.

Many of Petersen’s political views align with the Libertarian Party. For instance, Petersen is wary of the American military intervening in other countries’ affairs. He’s also opposed to the “War on Drugs,” and is a strong proponent of gun rights. But unlike some Libertarians, Petersen opposes abortion rights.

Besides Hawley and Petersen, Warrensburg resident Tony Monetti has also raised more than $200,000 for his Republican Senate bid. Hawley is slated to start actively campaigning for Senate on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump will hold a fundraiser for the statewide official on Wednesday in St. Louis.

Here’s what Petersen had to say during the show:

  • Petersen said his supporters convinced him to run for Senate as a Republican, as opposed to a Libertarian. “Ninety-eight percent or more said ‘Austin, you’re pro-life, you’re pro-constitution,” he said. “We really want to beat Claire. Go run as a Republican and beat her.”
  • He said he doesn’t see his opposition to abortion rights as a socially conservative position, but rather “a fundamentally moral position that takes a positive view of humanity.”  “My problem is the left has in many ways dehumanized the unborn, and we treat abortion as if it were birth control,” he said.
  • When it comes to Trump, Petersen said he agrees with him on certain issues — adding he would “unite with anyone to do right and unite with no one to do wrong.”
  • “The president has done a lot of things that I support. He’s cut regulations, he pushed through a tax bill that I thought was fantastic,” said Petersen, adding he also liked Trump’s decision to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. “But when the president says things like ‘we need to take the guns first and have due process later,’ I have to stick with the Second Amendment.”
  • Petersen said there are “several liberty Republicans” that his campaign is courting, including U.S. Sen Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. “The question is: How much are they going to be willing to buck the establishment in Missouri?” he said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Austin Petersen: @AP4Liberty

Music: “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd

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.