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Missouri's GOP attorney general candidates both falsely claim 2020 election was 'stolen'

The three major-party candidates for Missouri attorney general, from left, Will Scharf, Andrew Bailey and Elad Gross.
Campaign photos
The three major-party candidates for Missouri attorney general, from left, Will Scharf, Andrew Bailey and Elad Gross.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and former federal prosecutor Will Scharf both repeated lies that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate. That's despite numerous independent studies and government reviews proving there was "absolutely no evidence" of fraud.

The two Republican candidates running for Missouri attorney general agreed this week that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, parroting claims spread by Donald Trump and his allies that have been widely debunked.

Appearing at a candidate forum in Springfield on Tuesday, Attorney General Andrew Bailey and former federal prosecutor Will Scharf laid out their reasoning for why they believe Trump’s defeat in 2020 was illegitimate.

Bailey said the presidential election was “absolutely stolen.”

“The left stole that election by changing the rules of the game at the 11th hour,” he 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, saying “it was stolen. It was rigged. Call it whatever you will.”

“In the 2020 election, out of 159 million ballots cast, over 100 (million) were early or absentee,” he said. “It’s absolutely unprecedented in American history. Many of those ballots were cast totally extra legally, whether it was a lack of signature verification, whether it was the late submission in Pennsylvania, you can go on and on and on.”

Democrat Elad Gross, who also participated in the forum, answered the question of whether the 2020 election was stolen with one word.

“No,” he said.

Numerous independent studies and government reviews of the 2020 election found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The former president’s allegations of voting fraud were debunked by his former attorney general, William Barr, dismissed by a litany of judges and refuted by state election officials. Studies have also concluded that there is little evidence that mail-in ballots help one party over another.

A six-month review of ballots in the largest county in Arizona commissioned by Republican state legislators found that President Joe Biden not only won the state but should have been awarded 306 more votes.

Nevada’s Republican secretary of state reviewed tens of thousands of allegations of voter fraud identified by the state Republican Party, determining that the majority were baseless or inaccurately interpreted.

A review of the 2020 election ordered by the Republican leader of the Wisconsin legislature found “absolutely no evidence of election fraud.” That confirmed an earlier finding by a nonpartisan audit.

A committee led by Republican state lawmakers in Michigan concluded after a months-long investigation that there was no widespread or systematic fraud in the state in 2020.

And in Georgia, the Republican governor and secretary of state recertified Biden’s win after conducting three statewide counts. Trump allies who made claims of election fraud in the state have recanted, and one — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — lost a defamation lawsuit over the allegations filed by former Georgia election workers.

Despite all this, surveys have found that two-thirds of Republican voters continue to believe that the 2020 election was stolen and that Biden was not lawfully elected.

Other issues

The Springfield forum is the first event where all three major candidates in the Missouri attorney general race appeared together.

Bailey is a first-time candidate appointed to the job by Gov. Mike Parson in 2022, after his predecessor won a seat in the U.S. Senate. He’s an Army veteran and former assistant prosecuting attorney in Warren County and assistant attorney general who was Parson’s top attorney when he won the appointment.

Scharf is also a first-time candidate who entered politics in 2015 when he worked as policy director for Catherine Hanaway’s bid campaign for governor. After she lost in the primary, he took a similar job with Eric Greitens and joined the administration when Greitens became governor. He left state government after Greitens resigned in disgrace, eventually becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in St. Louis prosecuting violent crimes.

Gross is a former assistant attorney general who runs his own law firm in St. Louis with a major focus on Missouri’s Sunshine Law. In 2021, he won a unanimous ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court that public agencies could not charge for time attorneys spend reviewing public records that are requested under the Sunshine Law. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in 2020.

Each candidate answered questions on a wide variety of topics, including transgender rights, affirmative action and the role of the attorney general’s office.

Bailey painted himself as a “conservative warrior” who would fight against the “woke left.” He repeatedly mentioned his roots in Missouri as his motivation for seeking public office.

“I’m a Christian. I’m a father. I’m a veteran. Those three things… guide everything that I do in a leadership role in the State of Missouri.”

Scharf hammered what he believes to be a “culture of corruption” in Jefferson City that needs to be rooted out and held accountable. He also highlighted his work as an attorney for Trump in various legal cases, including the former president’s federal election interference case.

“Currently I have one client. His name is Donald J. Trump,” Scharf said. “I’ve fought for him in courtrooms across America, all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”

Gross said he’s running to ensure “we can have a Missouri that serves all of us once again.”

“When we start to leave some of us behind, we’re leaving all of us behind,” he said. “We owe it to the people of Missouri to bring good, strong, thoughtful leadership back to Jefferson City.”

One point of agreement for three candidates was that unregulated slot machines offering cash prizes to players that proliferate in Missouri are illegal, though they appear to differ on who should enforce that.

Missouri has legal, regulated gambling in the form of a state lottery, 13 casinos, charity bingo and raffles. The unregulated, or “gray market” machines, are considered legal by their backers because they reveal the outcome of the next wager on request or mimic a raffle.

Bailey, who has accepted campaign contributions from the companies that operate the devices, said the entire situation is “a failure of the status quo in Jefferson City.” He said local prosecutors could take up those cases when they are referred to them by police.

“As police investigate those criminal offenses and refer them, you prosecute the criminals,” Bailey said. “The police sees the evidence and you destroy pursuant to a court order. Prosecute crimes and enforce the rule of law.”

Scharf dismissed any argument that the machines could be considered legal and vowed to prosecute cases himself if elected.

“They are blatantly illegal. I’ve read Missouri law,” he said. “They’re illegal. They shouldn’t be there and yet they’re in almost every gas station you’ll go into. They’re all over the place.”

Gross said the machines are illegal and “we should get rid of them.” And after that, he said changes to state law should be enacted to “make sure that companies that are running these illegal operations are not then trying to buy those offices that have enforcement authority.”

This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent.

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.
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