Missouri attorney general candidates share their goals if elected this year

Three candidates running for Missouri attorney general this year gathered in Springfield on Tuesday to discuss how they would handle key issues if elected.

Two Republican candidates, incumbent Andrew Bailey and his primary challenger Will Scharf, were joined by the Democratic candidate Elad Gross.

Only one other candidate, Libertarian Ryan Munro, is competing to be the people’s lawyer this year, meaning that Gross and Munro will face no challengers in the August primary.

Bailey, Scharf and Gross were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and explain their motivations for running for office before addressing questions about their stances on various topics.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks at a press conference establishing a Counter Human Trafficking Taskforce on Thursday, April 25, 2024.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks at a press conference establishing a Counter Human Trafficking Taskforce on Thursday, April 25, 2024.

Bailey described his background in the U.S. Army, including his deployment in Iraq, while also focusing on the importance of family and the motivation that they give him in his role as Missouri attorney general.

“Getting to be a dad is the best thing that's ever happened to me and that's why I'm so invested in this state,” Bailey said. “Not only is it home for me, but it's where I've chosen to raise my family.”

Scharf discussed his work as a federal prosecutor, as well as his recent experiences serving as an attorney for former President Donald Trump, representing him in some of his recent cases. He thinks Jefferson City has become controlled by special interest groups and lobbyists, and he hopes to address that corruption, if elected.

“We have a culture of failure and corruption in Jefferson City,” Scharf said. “If we do not break that, if we do not fundamentally break from the past, we're gonna keep getting more of the same, and to me more of the same is absolutely unacceptable.”

Will Scharf, a Republican candidate for Missouri Attorney General in the 2024 elections.
Will Scharf, a Republican candidate for Missouri Attorney General in the 2024 elections.

Gross spoke about his background in public service, working as a public defender, and the enormous caseloads that those serving in that role face. Gross, a lifelong Missourian, believes that the office of the Missouri attorney general has the tools to improve the lives of Missourians in multiple respects.

“I believe so strongly that we can have a Missouri that serves all of us once again,” Gross said.

Candidates were asked what they believe the role of the Missouri attorney general to be. Gross said it means being the people’s lawyer, but many people don’t even know who the attorney general is. He proposed ideas on how to fix that.

“I think the attorney general should be holding town halls all throughout our state on a regular basis, not just during election season,” Gross said. “Your voice should be heard in our government at every stage of that.”

He thinks the office of the attorney general should return to its core duties, such as prosecuting scammers and protecting Missourians, as well as advocating for the animals of the state by stopping puppy mills.

Elad Gross, a Democratic candidate for Missouri Attorney General in 2024, is seen here with his dog, Liberty Belle.
Elad Gross, a Democratic candidate for Missouri Attorney General in 2024, is seen here with his dog, Liberty Belle.

Scharf said that the attorney general’s job is to protect the rights of Missourians, while ferreting out corruption in Jefferson City. Bailey echoed this sentiment and said that protecting the constitutional rights of Missourians from government infringement was critical.

“We need to support freedom, safety and prosperity, and those are all three principles we've enforced through litigation from the Attorney General's Office,” Bailey said.

Another question posed to candidates later asked how the attorney general should respond to unconstitutional federal laws.

“I wake up every morning and ask myself how I'm gonna sue Joe Biden,” Bailey said. “We've been successful at it, so we're gonna keep doing that.”

Scharf again stressed his commitment to upholding the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, while advising that the people of the nation and its government consider the direction in which it is headed.

“We can keep playing Whack-a-Mole with lawsuits and we should, but I think we also have to think more deeply as a society about how our country has gone so wildly off the path that we should be on,” Scharf said.

Gross stressed that violating the law was not a partisan issue, and that government overreach should be stopped regardless of the political party it originated from.

“I have sued Democrats, and I've sued Republicans for violating our civil liberties. If they do it, we need a watchdog who's going to take them on,” Gross said.

More: Politician or the people's lawyer? How the role of Missouri Attorney General has evolved

Participants were later asked in the debate whether they believe that the 2020 election was stolen. Bailey said “absolutely,” and encouraged vigilant election security this year.

“The left stole that election by changing the rules of the game at the 11th hour,” Bailey said. “They're going to try to steal this one by silencing our voices on big tech social media platforms by stifling us in the mainstream media, and by packing the polling places with criminal illegal aliens that shouldn't be here in the first place.”

Scharf agreed with the claim that the 2020 election had been stolen, citing his current defense of Trump in cases of alleged election interference. He encouraged people to exercise their right to question the outcome of the election.

“If our First Amendment rights do not extend that far, if we can't stand up and call into question the results of a highly questionable election anymore, that's the end of the First Amendment,” Scharf said. “That's the end of the constitutional order. That's the end of the democratic aspects of our constitutional republic.”

In response to the same question about whether the 2020 election had been stolen, Gross simply said, “No.”

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Here's what Missouri attorney general candidates think on key issues