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Missouri AG candidate Scharf says he’s the conservative outsider for the job

Will Scharf, Candidate for Attorney General of Missouri , poses for a portrait outside the St.Louis Public Radio office on Thursday June 27, 2024.
Sophie Proe
St.Louis Public Radio
Will Scharf, candidate for attorney general of Missouri, poses for a portrait outside St.Louis Public Radio on June 27.

Over the past few months, Missouri attorney general hopeful Will Scharf became a familiar face on national news for his legal advocacy for former President Donald Trump.

Now, over the next few weeks, the St. Louis County attorney is hoping to make the case to GOP primary voters that he should replace Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

“I never really thought this was something that I would do,” Scharf said on an episode of the Politically Speaking podcast. “Friends of mine approached me about running and said that they thought it was really time to shake up Jefferson City and get more conservative outsiders, as opposed to establishment politicians and establishment people, in the office.”

Scharf was former Gov. Eric Greitens’ policy director and a former assistant U.S. attorney. Most recently, Scharf joined Trump’s appellate team and was one of several attorneys who argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning presidential immunity. The court ruled 6-3on Monday that presidents have immunity for official acts but not unofficial — and sent an election interference case back to a lower court to sort out.

“If a president walks out onto the street and shoots a man dead, he doesn't have immunity for that,” Scharf said before the high court’s decision. “We're not talking about private conduct. But for a president's official acts in office, we believe that a failure by the court to recognize a broad doctrine of immunity would cripple the presidency.”

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey listens to Riley Gaines, an ambassador for Independent Women's Voice, not pictured, speak during a press conference on anti-trans measures on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, at the Old St. Louis Post Office Building in Downtown. In September, Bailey’s office filed a lawsuit against the Wentzville School Board saying they held discussions regarding policies around the use of bathrooms in private meetings rather than open to the public.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey listens to Riley Gaines, an ambassador for Independent Women's Voice, speak during a press conference on anti-trans measures on Feb. 1 in St. Louis.

An expensive race

Since entering the race, political action committees backing Scharf have raised substantial amounts of money from people like Leonard Leo — who has played a major role in shaping the federal judiciary under GOP presidents.

Scharf said he’s “backed by big national conservative groups that are as sick and tired with Jefferson City as Missouri Republican primary voters are.”

“I haven't heard a single person say that they think Jefferson City is doing a great job. I think Andrew Bailey is a creature of the Jefferson City establishment,” Scharf said. “And to me, that's the core contrast in this race: continuity in Jefferson City or a break from that.”

Gov. Mike Parson appointed Bailey as attorney general after Eric Schmitt was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2022. Since taking over, Bailey has made headlines on a number of fronts — including pursuing an effort to oust Kim Gardner as circuit attorney and putting forward emergency rulesto substantially restrict hormone therapy and gender transition surgery.

Scharf said Bailey hasn’t done an effective job of litigating on behalf of the state, pointing to a recent loss at the U.S. Supreme Court over the interplay between the federal government and social media companies.

Bailey’s allies have painted Scharf as “Wall Street Willy,” a reference to Scharf being born in New York and coming from a wealthy family. Scharf dismissed those attacks as part of “silly season.”

“This place is my home. I'm proud to be an adoptive Missourian. I can't really imagine living anywhere else,” Scharf said. 

Video gaming

If elected, Scharf said he would take a more discerning look at video gaming devices that are found in gas stations or fraternal halls all over the state.

“I think the situation that we have right now is that there are tens of thousands of illegal slot machines that are being allowed to operate that are, I believe, depriving the State of Missouri of significant revenue,” Scharf said. “I think it's just a crazy situation. And it goes to show how when politically powerful constituencies are at work, the laws of Missouri are not being evenly enforced.”

Low-income housing tax credits

Scharf said that he would be in favor of elected officials being taken off the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which is responsible for doling out low-income housing tax credits.

The attorney general is a member of that commission along with the governor, the lieutenant governor and treasurer.

“I'd much rather see a professional staff and people who are experienced in housing and construction and finance making decisions based on what's best for Missouri, as opposed to what's best for their political constituencies or, frankly, their donors,” he said.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.