Missouri voters received an anonymous political mailer this week attacking Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley as insufficiently loyal to former GOP governor Eric Greitens and insufficiently supportive of Second Amendment rights.
The mailers, which tout the conservative bona fides of various independent candidates, appear to have been sent in order to splinter the Republican vote. One mailer accuses Hawley, the state’s attorney general, of wanting “to make it harder to buy guns” and lauds independent candidate Craig O’Dear as a “tireless defender of our 2nd Amendment rights.”
Another mailer attacks Hawley for urging Greitens to resign earlier this year in the face of two felony charges and allegations that he blackmailed his mistress by photographing her in a state of undress.
“Josh Hawley led a witch hunt against Governor Eric Greitens,” the mailer alleges, adding that Hawley “unfairly attacked Governor Greitens before he had all the facts, like Washington liberals attacked Judge Kavanaugh.”
Similar mailers have surfaced in Indiana and Montana, criticizing Republican candidates locked in tight races against Democratic incumbents. But it remains unclear who paid for them, as they lack the legally required disclaimer making voters aware of their sponsor.
“I think it’s a trick on Republican voters to try to trick them into thinking there are more conservative candidates than Josh Hawley,” Todd Graves, chairman of the Missouri GOP, told the Kansas City Star.
O’Dear denounced the mailer in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday.
“The flyer, as described to us, attacks Josh Hawley for his Second Amendment position, and does so in a misleading manner,” he said. “It’s not ugly; it’s just misleading. Anyone who is familiar with our campaign would know the flyer makes no sense — it criticizes Hawley for purportedly taking positions we actually support.”
Hawley’s spokesperson, Kelli Ford, accused his opponent, Democratic senator Claire McCaskill, of sending the mailers.
“Sounds like another dirty trick by Claire McCaskill,” she said. “She wrote the book on it. This is just more of the same.”
McCaskill’s campaign has denied any involvement in the mailers.