Senate hopeful uses lawsuits to exercise power of AG's Office

Eric Schmitt (Republican attorney general in Missouri) sued China over the coronavirus.

Senate hopeful uses lawsuits to exercise power of AG's Office

He joined a failed lawsuit to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential elections. As he prepares himself to run for Senate. Now, he is suing to stop mask mandates being placed in the state’s liberal cities as well as the Missouri schools.

State attorneys general are increasingly using lawsuits to increase their influence and push for their political agendas. Republicans have used the partisan division over coronavirus restrictions to show their conservative credentials to voters. They also capitalized on the public's exhaustion at COVID-19 protocols, a year and half into a pandemic which shows no signs of abating.

Schmitt believes that the fight over mask mandates will help him gain support in a crowded primary to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt in next year's midterm election.

Steven Puro, a retired political scientist at St. Louis University, said that Schmitt "is taking advantage of what we refer to the politics of grievance". "He's going on that as much he can."

Schmitt's spokesperson said that the lawsuits were his way to "fight back against government bureaucrats."

Chris Nuelle stated in a statement that "Nothing is off limits in our mission to beat back encroachment, overreach from federal to local government on the liberties of the peoples of Missouri."

Schmitt (46), is promising to fight President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate that every employer with over 100 employees must have them vaccinated and tested for the virus each week.

Schmitt tweeted last Wednesday, "Missouri is a national leader in pushing against the Biden Administration & Covid-related mandates." "Biden’s overreach in vaccine mandates is not going to stand in Missouri," Schmitt tweeted last week.

Although the job's responsibilities may vary from one state to another, most attorneys general are charged with protecting state constitutions and consumer protection watchdogs.

While they have had the power to file headline-grabbing lawsuits with an edge politically, Paul Nolette, an associate Professor at Marquette University, and an expert in state attorneys general, stated that they have traditionally stayed to lower-profile lawsuits against fraudsters and defend state laws that are challenged before the courts.

Nolette stated that filing flashy legal challenges was becoming more popular among Republican lawyers general during the Obama era. After Donald Trump was elected president, Democratic attorneys general led the charge in suing White House for its policies.

Nolette stated that "Now Republican (attorneys generally) are showing their muscle during the Biden administration, especially on this issue of suing municipalities. It's still uncommon, but it's becoming more common in the past few years.

He said that GOP attorneys general in red state are now focusing on liberal policies implemented by majority Democratic cities. This is the only place Democrats have any control.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is fighting with San Antonio over how the city handles immigrants who are suspected to be in the United States illegally. He accuses city officials of violating "sanctuary" cities laws.

This practice is less common among Democratic attorney generals. Nolette stated that they are less politically active than other Democrats, but because there are fewer rural Republican strongholds in rural areas, the impact of conservative policies being blocked is less visible.

Robyn Kuhlmann, University of Central Missouri political science professor, said that Schmitt's lawsuits are technically being sued by his constituents. However, she believes the suits will resonate with Republicans and Democrats in entirely different ways.

Kuhlmann stated that while it might seem like he is attacking constituents from the liberal perspective, it is actually defending rights and liberties for conservatives.

Schmitt is suing public health officials for urging mask wear to stop COVID-19 spreading. This is especially true when the contagious delta variant has been causing a rise in hospitalizations and deaths. Schmitt's lawsuit points out the low rate of death among school-aged children and stresses the importance for families to make their own decisions about their health.

Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman said that Schmitt had sued and that Columbia was "extremely disappointed" to hear that the Missouri Attorney General chose to sue the school district for safety measures.

However, Republicans may find that such actions have limits. Recent Republican-led effort to recall California's Democratic Governor was unsuccessful. Gavin Newsom was unable to recall Democratic Gov. because of COVID-19 restrictions he imposed. There were also growing concerns about the dangers of the delta variant.

Nolette stated that lawyers can be used to raise funds, name recognition and votes for politically-motivated attorneys general.

Nolette stated that this tactic works because attorneys general are able to sue and instantly cash in on recognition of taking action. A state legislator must work for months, sometimes even years, to pass legislation. This makes the process more difficult.

Nolette stated that some of these lawsuits are unlikely to be successful, but you can still sue for a hearing and receive a hearing.

Schmitt's lawsuit to hold China accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic remains pending before a federal court. The Chinese government has declined to participate. Because U.S. law prohibits lawsuits against other countries, they don't usually go anywhere.

Schmitt continues to make progress in his lawsuits against local masking laws. Schmitt won a Missouri judge's ban on St. Louis County's enforcement of its mask mandate last month.

Numerous Missouri attorneys general used this position to climb the ladder to higher office.

Republican John Ashcroft served as attorney general between 1977 and 1985. He was later elected Missouri governor, U.S. senator, and was then appointed U.S. Attorney General under President George W. Bush.

From 1993 to 2009 Jay Nixon, a Democrat, served as attorney general. He was then elected governor. Schmitt's predecessor, Republican Josh Hawley served two years as attorney-general before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Schmitt faces a host of Republican Senate candidates including former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned amid scandals in 2018 and Mark McCloskey were recently pardoned for waving weapons at social justice protesters last year. U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler, and Billy Long are also running.

Even though Missouri is now considered a red state there are concerns among Republicans that Greitens could have a path to the GOP nomination, potentially wasting what should have been a win for Republicans.

Puro stated that Schmitt must quickly clear the GOP field if he wants to win. Kuhlmann stated that filing lawsuits that draw attention from wealthy donors and state voters will help.

She said, "This allows name recognition to happen in this crowded field and also some credit claim in the fact that he holds this position as attorney general which is acting on Missouri's laws."

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