Veterans, guns, and abortion framing Missouri’s U.S. Senate race

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s 2018 U.S. Senate race has promised to be one of the most polarizing elections in the nation, with the potential to decide control of the U.S. Senate, and as November 2018 draws nearer with each passing day, the candidates continue marching forward.

Throughout the course of the campaigns, a number of issues have taken the spotlight, though the chief topic on everyone’s minds has concerned the investigations and allegations against Gov. Eric Greitens. Because of that, the race itself has taken a backseat to the top political talk in Missouri, despite the fact that the campaign is likely to be one of major significance and heavy spending.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is the top target for Republicans, who have claimed nearly every statewide office and hold supermajorities in the legislature, and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is the early favorite to win the nomination. But to get that nomination, Hawley will have overcome a field of Republican candidates, which includes the likes of ex-libertarian Austin Petersen and former Air Force pilot Tony Monetti, who have raised the most money among the spread of other hopeful GOP nominees. Hawley’s campaign, however, has largely ignored the candidacies of Monetti, Peterson, or Courtland Sykes, who have never held an elected office, instead focusing all efforts on McCaskill.

But as the campaigns move forward to the August primaries, a number of issues have been at the forefront of the conversation. And the topic of veterans has been one of the most discussed – and acted upon – by some of the candidates.

In the past week, coinciding with the Memorial Day holiday, both McCaskill and Hawley announced their own veterans advisory councils, both selecting members who have served in the armed forces to help ensure that they receive the honor, support, and care that they deserve.

“I am honored to have the support of so many veterans and military family members from across Missouri,” McCaskill said. “Our veterans and their families have made incredible sacrifices in defense of our freedoms. I am going to continue to do everything in my power to make sure our veterans get the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. And nothing is ever going to stop me.”

“Our veterans are American heroes. I am thankful for their support on our Veterans Advisory Council, but more importantly, I am grateful for their service to our country,” Hawley said. “They put their lives on the line in defense of our country, our ideals and our freedom. We are forever indebted to them and their families.”

The emergence of veterans issues as a forefront topic isn’t necessarily a surprise in Missouri, as the Show-Me State has now taken a hard look at veterans’ care across the state.

Statewide elected officials called for investigations into some of the care providers in the past year, with some investigations producing results showing some issues and discrepancies in the level of care.

But some of the other top areas of concern for the candidates remain the same: gun rights, abortion, reducing government spending and debt, taxes, promoting economic development, and healthcare. 

On the issue of abortion, Sen. McCaskill remains a staunch proponent of the Pro-Choice movement, while Hawley has solidified his base as an anti-abortion politician by picking up the endorsement of Missouri Right to Life officials, an endorsement which they said stands in both the primary and general election, provided Hawley wins the nomination.

Petersen responded to the endorsement with a statement, saying:

“Josh understands the importance of recognizing and respecting those who have served,” said Colonel Jack Jackson. “This group is composed of veterans from different branches and backgrounds. We’re honored to fight for Josh Hawley and bring attention to veterans’ issues—issues that Sen. McCaskill has neglected for years.”

On the issue of gun control and Second Amendment rights, McCaskill has shown support for a ban on assault rifles, while her Republican counterparts in the race have opposed it, shaping that the efforts should instead be focused on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

As the campaigns continue, the candidates will unfold more of their plans, but it’s still a long road and six months until the November general election.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.