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Missouri AG Josh Hawley Swings Through Blue Springs Ahead Of GOP Senate Primary

Aviva Okeson-Haberman
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley addressed a crowd of about 50 people Saturday at the Republican office in Blue Springs.

A couple of days before the Missouri Republican primary race for U.S. Senate, frontrunner Josh Hawley had his sights set on November’s general election.

But outside of the attorney general’s campaign stop Saturday at the state Republican office in Blue Springs, one of his opponents spoke to voters as they left, trying to sway them away from Hawley.

About 50 Republicans packed into a cramped office, listening to Hawley tout President Donald Trump's endorsement, explain how he'll defeat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and give his support for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

Hawley told KCUR he feels confident going into Tuesday’s primary.

“I feel great. I’m delighted to have the president’s endorsement in this race and his support,” Hawley said. “And I think we have a really united party, and will certainly after Tuesday, and a great opportunity to send home Claire McCaskill.”

Credit Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
U.S. Senate hopeful Tony Monetti spoke to Republicans leaving Josh Hawley's campaign stop in Blue Springs on Saturday.

Tony Monetti, one of the 10 Republicans running against Hawley, waited outside.

The former B-2 stealth pilot’s main campaign issue is improving veterans’ mental health care.

“And I met with so many people on the way out that says, ‘We were there, we’re voting for you.’ And that’s why I wanted to be present,” Monetti said. “I’m winning votes one at a time.”

Hawley was in the St. Louis area Friday before making the trip across the state. His main focus during about a 10-minute speech was McCaskill. He went after McCaskill’s vote against Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch; her office said she plans to meet with Kavanaugh on Aug. 21.

“It’s hard to get a perfect record, I always say, but Claire McCaskill’s Supreme Court — perfectly terrible,” Hawley said to laughs from the crowd. He met with voters after speaking.

Coast Guard veteran Terry Hibdon is voting for Hawley, volunteers for the GOP and wants to see McCaskill out of office.

“My basic issue for going with him or anybody that’s in the Republican Party is I’ve followed Claire McCaskill for 20 some odd years and — just my opinion — she has always had her sights set on something a lot farther up the ladder,” Hibdon said.

Hawley’s last stop near Kansas City was on July 24at the national Veterans of Foreign Wars conference alongside Trump.

“I think the president’s doing a tremendous job. I think he needs support and reinforcement if there’s one area where I might encourage him it’s in the area of spending,” Hawley told KCUR after the event. “I think our spending is out of control … Congress is just spending like there’s no tomorrow and we got to get a handle on that, and I’d encourage the president to keep the pressure up on Congress to do that.”

Credit Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Air Force veteran Dee Ann Poole (right) asks Josh Hawley how he plans to support veterans in office. Poole livestreamed her interaction.

Dee Ann Poole caught up with Monetti after hearing Hawley speak. Poole, an Air Force veteran, said she came to hear what Hawley’s plan was for addressing veteran issues, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addiction.

“I want to know what he is going to do for us. I have no idea,” said Poole, whose brother was a Vietnam veteran who killed himself when he was 29.

Another issue on Tuesday’s ballot is one for Republicans and Democrats: Proposition A. It would ban unions from requiring that workers pay dues, and typically has Republican support. But Monetti said that after speaking with voters during his tour of 114 counties, he’ll vote against it.

“People will vote no on Prop A and I have decided to bend the knee to the people and not the establishment,” Monetti said.

Austin Petersen, another Hawley challenger, was spending the weekend at his campaign headquarters in Kansas City, according to campaign spokeswoman Heather Coil.

While some Republicans said Saturday and previously that they’re hesitant to support Hawley, the attorney general told KCUR that come November, the party will be united.

“I want to reach out to all voters, welcome the support everybody after Tuesday, look forward to earning everybody’s vote and then uniting together as a party to beat the senator,” he said.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson

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