- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Questions are being raised again about whether Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is violating state law by living in rural Boone County rather than in Jefferson City.

The issue, which first arose after Hawley took office in January, resurfaced after The Jefferson City News-Tribune reported that Hawley, a Republican in his first term, voted last week in a special election in Boone County. Jefferson City is in Cole County.

Missouri law says “The attorney general shall reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the supreme court building.” The Missouri Constitution defines the seat of government as Jefferson City.

Hawley’s main residence is in rural Boone County, within 20 miles of Jefferson City. After the issue was first raised, he rented a two-bedroom apartment in Jefferson City and said he would live there as much as necessary to make it a legal residence.

“Attorney General Josh Hawley, our state’s top law enforcement official, is either lying to Missourians about where he lives or voting in a county in which he does not legally reside. Either way, it is concerning that Josh Hawley seems to think the law doesn’t apply to him,” Missouri Democratic Party Communications Director Meira Bernstein said in a statement Tuesday.

A legal analysis provided in January by Deputy Attorney General Michael Martinich-Sauter contended Hawley is complying with the law because his home is within “ordinary commuting distance” - about a 20-minute drive - of Jefferson City. It compared his residency status to state employees who commute to the capitol complex from other areas of Jefferson City or other areas of the county. Hawley in February also accused the Democrats of creating a “sideshow issue” by raising the issue.

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Hawley’s office, on Tuesday referred to the February statement and said she had nothing to add.

Previous attorneys general, including Hawley’s predecessor, Chris Koster, had a home or apartment in Jefferson City and voted from that local address. Koster also maintained a place in the St. Louis area.

Boone County online records show Hawley is registered to vote from a Columbia address. That area in Boone County is part of the 50th House District, where Republican Sara Walsh won the special election last week. The Boone County clerk’s office told the News-Tribune that Hawley voted in that election.

Hawley has created an exploratory committee for a possible run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Claire McCaskill but he has not officially entered the race.

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Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, https://www.newstribune.com


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