Republican Senate Candidate Austin Petersen Sees Opportunity in Hawley Doubts

Michael Calhoun
February 06, 2018 - 2:25 am
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley

Photo by Kevin Killeen/KMOX

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- Former Missouri Sen. Kit Bond is the latest to say that maybe Josh Hawley isn't Republicans' best choice to go up against Claire McCaskill. While many are looking to Congresswoman Ann Wagner for an alternative, there's another candidate already in the race.

Austin Petersen says "of course!" when asked if he feels like he's waving his hands in the air, trying to the party establishment's attention. He's been campaigning on social media but says he's also collected more individual campaign contributions than Hawley.

McCaskill clearly leads the pack in fundraising. She raised $11.8 million last year. Hawley brought in $1.8 million. Petersen collected $328,129. (Courtland Sykes, whose comments on the "crazed definition of modern womanhood" recently garnered criticism, raised about $14,000.)

Petersen says no Republican in this race is going to raise more money than McCaskill, "so in order to beat Claire, you're to have to outmaneuver her. That's going to require fire in the belly. That's going to require someone who doesn't have a full-time job as Attorney General."

Petersen also doesn't think Hawley's recent comments connecting sex trafficking with the sexual revolution are helpful.

"When we get bogged down in the culture wars, like what Josh Hawley said with his rediculous comments a couple of weeks ago that got him in hot water, we lose. Claire McCaskill wants the fight that Josh Hawley is going to bring to her," he said.

Those murmurs about Hawley's viability as a candidate resulted in some contributors and others urging Congresswoman Ann Wagner to consider jumping into the race, according to former state party chairman and KMOX analyst John Hancock.

Wagner tweeted facts about sex trafficking of women not long after Hawley's remarks were published.

Former U.S. Sen. Bond was asked by USA Today is he'd like to see Wagner step in if Hawley doesn't become more active on the campaign trail and fundraising circuit.

"Somebody’s got to get in there and win it" was his response.

Petersen says he's a constitutional conservative. His website says he's pro-life, which includes opposing the death penalty, but he's not in favor of the war on drugs.

KMOX News asked him about an issue Washington will soon confront -- the temporary budget band-aid is expiring. Another government shut-down could happen at the end of the week. When asked how to resolve the gridlock, Petersen suggests Congress return to "regular order."

"The House needs to originate the spending bills and we need to have 12 appropriations bills," he said. "We haven't had regular order for over 20 years."