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Politics, Elections and Government

Jackson County GOP Chair Still Supports Sen. Hawley Even As Other Republicans Denounce Him

010821_cm_JoshHawley
AP
/
Senate Television
In this image from a video, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks as the Senate reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College Vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

A Republican colleague in the U.S. Senate says Hawley’s objection to certifying the electoral college votes was a “stunt.”

After U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley stoked baseless concerns about the presidential election results, a top donor to his campaign and former mentor both expressed regret for their support of the Republican senator from Missouri and blamed him for the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

It’s the latest fallout for Hawley after he became the first senator to announce he was objecting to the presidential election results, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud. While some Missouri Republicans still support Hawley and say it’s unfair to blame him for the violence at the Capitol, a political science professor says Hawley will likely find it more difficult to pass legislation.

In a statement Friday, Hawley called the death of one of the Capitol Police officers, Brian Sicknick, "a heartbreaking tragedy" and described Wednesday's acts of violence as "criminal."

After Simon & Schuster canceled a forthcoming book by Hawley, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” Hawley said he will fight “this cancel culture.” The publishing company said it couldn’t support Hawley “after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

“Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition,” Hawley said in a statement.

Hawley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘He’s the voice of the people’

The violence at the nation’s Capitol didn’t surprise the former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. Jean Evans resigned from her position earlier than scheduled after receiving “disturbing” calls from people calling for a military coup. Many of the calls were from people she knew.

Evans told KMOX radio in St. Louis that she was disgusted when she saw Trump loyalists taking down the American flag and replacing it with a Trump flag. Evans then went on to blame both parties for normalizing violence.

“I was shocked and disappointed but based on the comments and things that I was hearing, I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t want to be associated with it,” Evans told KMOX Thursday.

Evans didn’t immediately respond to a KCUR request for comment. But she told The Kansas City Star that Hawley didn’t call for violence. The chairman of the Jackson County Republican Committee also said Hawley’s position challenging the election results should not be tied to Wednesday’s insurrection.

“I don’t think you can really put any blame on Josh Hawley,” David Lightner said. “I do believe Josh Hawley is challenging the electors. He’s the voice of the people, the voice of our state.”

Lightner said Jackson County Republicans, or at least the majority from Eastern Jackson county who supported Trump, believed that Democrats stole the election despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud and the rejection of some 60 lawsuits filed by Trump’s lawyers challenging the election results. Lightner said he opposed Wednesday’s violence.

An “embarrassment to Missouri”

Not all of Hawley’s supporters are sticking with him. Missouri state Rep. Shamed Dogan told St. Louis Public Radio that Hawley was an “embarrassment to Missouri.” The Ballwin Republican said he regrets voting for Hawley in 2018.

A major donor to Hawley’s senatorial campaign, Tamko Building Products CEO and President David Humphreys, told the Missouri Independent that Hawley is an “anti-democracy populist.”

“Hawley’s irresponsible, inflammatory, and dangerous tactics have incited violence and further discord across America,” Humphreys said in a statement to the Missouri Independent. “And he has now revealed himself as a political opportunist willing to subvert the Constitution and the ideals of the nation he swore to uphold.”

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth, a Republican from Missouri, told The Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his mentorship of Hawley was the “biggest mistake” of his life.

Some of Hawley’s Republican colleagues in the Senate have also sharply criticized him. U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R- Nebraska, told NPR that Hawley’s objection to certifying the electoral college votes was a “stunt.”

“It was a terrible, terrible idea,” Sasse said. “And you don’t lie to the American people, and that’s what’s been going on.”

Hawley was the first senator to announce his objection to certifying the electoral college results. That put his Republican colleagues in a “difficult political situation,” according to University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squire. He told KCUR’s Up To Date that Hawley will likely find the Senate a “very cold place” for the rest of his first term in office.

“I don’t think he's going to be able to get very many people to work with him on any of the things he might wish to accomplish,” Squire said. “... It's a place that does operate, to some extent, on personal relationships and he has sacrificed them because of what we can all see is pretty much naked political ambition.”

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