There are stark differences between Missouri’s Attorney General Candidates.
Democrat Teresa Hensley contends her experience as a Cass County prosecutor has prepared her to oversee lawyers who work for the state, and assist elected local prosecutors.
She thinks Republican Josh Hawley lacks the basic experience to handle the job of attorney general. “My opponent has never been in a Missouri courtroom” said Hensley. “He’s never represented a Missouri citizen, whether as a client or a victim. I think that matters.”
Hawley’s is a constitutional law professor at the University of Missouri whose clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and been an appellate attorney at Roberts previous law firm. He thinks the attorney general’s main function is to fight against federal overreach, and claims Hensley’s unqualified for such work. “She has no experience as a constitutional lawyer, almost no experience in federal court, zero experience at the United States Supreme Court” said Hawley. “And it’s an interesting job pitch on her part. She’s talking about her prosecutorial experience, which isn’t something the attorney general’s office does much of.”
Hawley clearly sees the attorney general’s function to be a litigator of cases involving the state in federal courts around the country, while Hensley believes the post should be focused on matters within the state
Hawley says Washington overreach is strangling Missouri’s economy. Hensley thinks Hawley’s too ideologically driven and would use an already strained budget to pursue his own interests. Hawley contends Hensley’s policy preferences are out of step with the state. “My opponent has endorsed higher taxes on businesses” said Hawley. “She says she’s in favor of increased environmental regulation. She says that she’s in favor of Obamacare. These are things that the people of Missouri oppose and that are holding back Missourians.”
Hensley says Hawley has indicated he wouldn’t enforce important federal laws such as allowing gay marriages. After a county clerk in Kentucky served five nights in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couple last year, Hawley called for public officials in Missouri to be permitted to deny such licenses, citing their religious beliefs.
He acknowledges the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriages must be followed, but contends the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which became law 10 years ago, allows state employees to opt out of personally performing acts which conflict with their religion.
Hensley has accused Hawley of accepting money for favors. She contends he would be compromised by the $3.5 million in contributions he’s received from Joplin businessman David Humphreys. She said “We’re talking about buying the attorney general’s office when you give $3 million to someone so that they can hold that office and you have a case pending.” Hensley says a class action lawsuit against Humphreys could go before the state attorney general. Hawley says he’ll fight against the “pay-to-play culture in state politics.
Both candidates favor major political reforms in Jefferson City. Hensley thinks there should be limits on campaign contributions. Hawley wants spending by lobbyist and special interests to be reined in.
Hensley and Hawley face each other in November’s election