COLUMBIA, Mo. — Confirming months of rumors, Columbia attorney Josh Hawley is officially throwing his hat in the race for attorney general in 2016 as a Republican.
Hawley is an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri and former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts who was also a member of the legal team that defended Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court in a case challenging federal requirements to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives to employees.
The 35-year-old from Columbia told the Associated Press in an advance interview that the state employee would be running as an outsider to state government.
Hawley’s website features a brief video announcing his candidacy and opening with the phrase, “Are you ready for battle?”
“The battle I’m talking about is the fight to defend your freedom,” Hawley continued by comparing veterans of previous generations to modern day lawyers. “Every generation of Americans is called to defend our Republic. Since our nation’s founding, Americans have given their lives on battlefields at home and abroad defending our liberty, we owe them a great debt, and we owe it to them to do our part for in our time. Today, the fight for freedom has moved to a different battleground: the United States Supreme Court. In legislatures and agencies at every level of government, radical liberals are passing laws and regulations attacking every constitutional freedom we cherish. We have to beat them at the Supreme Court.”
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican who also calls Columbia home, is also running for Attorney General, and issued a statement responding to Hawley’s entrance into the race.
“Even after today’s news, I remain the only Republican candidate to have stood in the courtrooms and the halls of government prosecuting dangerous criminals, successfully challenging federal overreach, and protecting law-abiding Missourians’ gun rights and privacy rights,” Schaefer wrote. “As a former assistant Attorney General, special assistant U.S. Attorney, and death penalty prosecutor, I know that conservatives in Missouri will demand an Attorney General who doesn’t need training wheels. Missouri doesn’t need an Attorney General who has never prosecuted a single criminal case. I will be ready from Day One.”
St. Louis County Assessor, Jake Zimmerman, a Democrat running for Attorney General, issued a statement as well.
“I welcome Josh Hawley to the campaign for Attorney General. Mr. Hawley and I fundamentally disagree on the path forward for Missouri,” Zimmerman wrote. “His effort to deny women the health care services they pay for through their employers is fundamentally unacceptable. His position on marriage equality is simply wrong; his position on environmental protection would jeopardize the health of the people of our state. Josh Hawley and I have a different view of where the next Attorney General should stand on critical public issues, and I look forward to a vigorous debate. This is what elections are about.”
Hawley has been touring the state and regularly appearing at Republican events, touting his experience as a constitutional attorney and flying the flag for the Missouri Liberty Project, which he founded.
He has previously billed himself on the website politicmo.com as representing Hobby Lobby, and has slowly become known as the “Hobby Lobby Lawyer” at Lincoln Day events throughout the state where he described the arguments he made in opposition to federal Obamacare regulations in the well of the Supreme Court.
On a writ to the court in the Hobby Lobby case he is listed with the address “UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI SCHOOL OF LAW 323 Hulston Hall Columbia, MO 65211”.
His current status with the University of Missouri isn’t clear at this time. He has applied for tenure and the process is nearing the end, but it is unclear whether Hawley will receive tenure, paid leave, or what the university calls unpaid leave, but is eligible to be paid thousands of dollars in benefits.
Hawley officially informed the university sometime yesterday of his intent to run, just two days before a Board of Curators meeting in which personnel issues related to professors seeking public office are likely to be discussed in closed session.
Schaefer, Zimmerman, and state senator Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, have all been in the race for several months, just last week The Missouri Times reported on their respective fundraising totals.
The primary election will be held on August 2, 2016, and the general election will be held on Nov 8, 2016.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.