- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri’s two Republican candidates for attorney general cited similar policy stances but differences in experience on Saturday during their first public forum in the race.

Josh Hawley, and associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, and state Sen. Kurt Schaefer spoke to a crowd of dozens of Republicans during the annual GOP conference in St. Louis. The question-and-answer session was tense at times, as they emphasized the importance of protecting state’s rights against federal overreach, religious freedom and rooting out corruption in state government.

While Hawley touted himself as a political outsider, Schaefer boasted of some of his experiences in public office, including leading a legislative committee that investigated abortion practices in the state. Schaefer also previously worked as an assistant state attorney general and special prosecutor.

Hawley cited his experience working with about 15 lawyers in the U.S. Supreme Court case in which Hobby Lobby and other businesses challenged a federal requirement to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives for employees. But Schaefer questioned Hawley’s role in that case.

“There’s a difference between being part of the team and being the leader of the team,” Schaefer said.

Hawley responded by taking a jab at Schaefer’s time as an elected official.

“In terms of who did this or that, who’s argued this or been here - with all due respect that’s how politicians talk,” Hawley said, adding that he wouldn’t “rush in front of the microphone” if elected.

Both candidates said they back transparency in government. Schaefer said if he’s elected attorney general, he would prosecute those who violate ethics laws, while Hawley called to end a state policy that exempts individual lawmakers from the state’s open records laws.

The Democrats running for attorney general are former Cass County prosecutor Teresa Hensley and St. Louis Assessor Jake Zimmerman. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster is running for governor.

The primary is Aug. 2.

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