Anonymous ads attack Josh Hawley on guns, boost third-party candidates

October 31, 2018 05:04 PM
Updated October 31, 2018 05:04 PM

Voters in at least four counties around the state have received political mailers from an unknown source attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley on guns — and implying that they should support a third-party or independent candidate.

The mailers fail to identify who paid for them, which is required by law. But they appear to be connected to mailers attacking GOP senate candidates in Montana and Indiana.

Hawley, the state’s attorney general, is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in one of the most hotly contested Senate campaigns in the country.

One of the mailers, received by a voter in Clay County, said Hawley “wants to make it harder to buy guns.” It then calls independent Senate candidate Craig O’Dear a “tireless defender of our 2nd Amendment rights.” Another mailer says voters can’t count on Hawley “to protect our gun rights,” then lays out the positions of Libertarian candidate Japheth Campbell.

The mailers are similar to ones that appear to be circulating in Montana and Indiana, two other states like Missouri where an incumbent Democrat is running in a tight Senate race. In Indiana, the state’s Libertarian Party denied any connection to the mailers.

O’Dear criticized the mailers in a Facebook post 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 was endorsed by the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, which called him a “champion of our Second Amendment freedoms.”

His spokeswoman, Kelli Ford, placed the blame for the mailers on McCaskill.

"Sounds like another dirty trick by Claire McCaskill,” she said. “She wrote the book on it. This is just more of the same.”

Ford was referencing McCaskill’s book, “Plenty Ladylike,” where she discusses behind-the-scenes efforts to support Todd Akin in advance of the 2012 Missouri Republican primary.

McCaskill’s campaign denied any connection to the mailer.

“Claire condemns all dark money efforts, including these mailers,” said Meira Bernstein, McCaskill’s spokeswoman. “Josh Hawley supports anonymous political giving, and Claire will continue to work hard to end it.”