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An AG, a bomber pilot, and a freedom fighter...with a chicken: Choices in the MO GOP Senate primary

GOP Senate candidate Austin Petersen is one of two contenders with any chance of winning the primary race against Missouri AG Josh Hawley. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

Since President Trump has endorsed and is already campaigning for the top Republican candidate in Missouri's primary race for the U.S. Senate, most of the state's GOP voters have at this point filed behind Attorney General Josh Hawley as the best bet for toppling incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Hawley's resume is impressive: He's a Yale grad. He's a Harvard grad. He's argued for religious freedom in front of the United States Supreme Court. He was previously a Constitutional law professor. And he ain't ugly, making him even tougher to beat by those who dare try.

Amongst the GOP field of ten candidates in the primary, the two who stand the best chance at challenging Hawley are Austin Petersen and Tony Monetti.

They've raised over $400,000 and $300,000 respectively, a pittance compared to Hawley's coffer of more than $3 million, and amounts completely dwarfed by McCaskill's anticipated $25 million haul.

In the meantime, McCaskill's campaign is capitalizing on what's been referred to as GOP chaos in the state.

But it's not fair to dismiss Petersen or Monetti's legitimacy as candidates. While the Republican machine doesn't back either of them, both have solid credentials themselves.

Austin Petersen came in second as a Libertarian candidate for president in 2016, and was encouraged by his supporters to run under the Republican banner for Senate in his home state, given that he's pro-life and pro-Constitution.

Another former Libertarian presidential candidate and regionally syndicated Missouri radio host, Gary Nolan, said of the race: "I'll take Hawley every day over Claire McCaskill. But I'll take Petersen in a New York second over Hawley."

He expressed frustration at Hawley, who campaigned for his current AG spot with a series of ads criticizing politicians who run for the purpose of making a career out of public office.

Nolan told TheBlaze, "He ran all those commercials saying his opponents were trying to climb the ladder, then about a year later he's running for higher office — and I've had enough of politicians like that."

Airforce veteran Tony Monetti is a retired bomber pilot who has put a lot on the line to seek the Senate seat, resigning his position as a director at the University of Central Missouri and placing his Warrensburg restaurant in the hands of a manager so that he could campaign.

And he's truly the outsider in this race. Colonel Monetti said, "I don't like politicians. I don't play by the game and the rules. We gotta replace the people spending 30-plus years in the Senate. And that's why I'm entering their world."

Monetti said of the Republican establishment: "Shame on them. Seven years they said they'd repeal and replace. And they didn't. The problem is the leadership. And I'll support the President."

Both Petersen and Monetti criticize Attorney General Hawley's handling of the legal troubles surrounding Missouri's governor, Eric Greitens.

Petersen said, "It's a mess. It's a mess. Now that Hawley has thrown the governor under the bus, there is a major conflict of interest," and added, "I'm the only candidate who can get all the Republican vote plus the Libertarian vote which is another 6 percent...plus many Democrats and independents because of my unique platform."

In a recent ad, Petersen is seen holding a chicken — literally — while chiding Hawley about not participating in recent debates.

Looking at the big picture, Nolan acknowledges that he understands why Hawley hasn't been attending debates with other candidates given the AG's status as frontrunner, saying that "the moment he does, he raises them to his level."

But Nolan adds: "Claire McCaskill is one of the most brilliant tacticians in politics today. I don't agree with her positions, but Hawley needs to be sharpening his pencil. He should be debating."

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