JEFFERSON CITY — A potential challenger to Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey has cashed campaign checks from at least three high-profile GOP figures, a signal the incumbent could face a bitter party primary in 2024.
The potential challenger, Will Scharf, received a $2,650 check from Leonard Leo, the co-chairman of the conservative law organization The Federalist Society, in December. Leo worked to confirm Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, according to his online biography.
Scharf also banked a $2,000 check from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and $250 from Peter Bisbee, the executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, in December, according to a review of state ethics commission records.
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“I’m proud to be supported by conservatives here in Missouri and around the country — really excited about the campaign ahead,” Scharf said Friday.
Asked which campaign he was launching, he said, “we’ll have an announcement on that before the end of the month.”
The contributions followed Gov. Mike Parson’s much-anticipated announcement in November that Bailey, a political newcomer and Parson’s then-general counsel, would become the next attorney general after then-Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s election to the U.S. Senate.
It was unclear Friday whether the Republican Attorneys General Association would back Bailey in 2024. A spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“We hope that the organization set up to support Republican attorneys general will support Andrew Bailey in his election,” said Michael Hafner, adviser to Bailey’s campaign.
Though Scharf hasn’t yet announced which office he will run for, all signs point to the former federal prosecutor — who also worked on Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmations — entering the attorney general’s race.
With Parson pledging his full support to Bailey in 2024, Scharf’s entry — along with any other high-profile Republicans who decide to run — could trigger an intense battle among party factions.
“I wouldn’t run in a race in which I didn’t think I was competitive,” Scharf said. “Pete Bisbee, executive director of RAGA, he’s an outstanding conservative leader. He’s done incredible things with that committee, and I’m proud to have his support.”
Bisbee has been tied to a robocall urging “patriots” to march toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 through his work as executive director for the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a fundraising arm of RAGA that sent the robocall.
Scharf said he didn’t know about those reports, and that it wasn’t a concern.
Scharf called Morrisey “a friend” and an “outstanding attorney general for the state of West Virginia.”
Scharf said of Leo, co-chairman of the The Federalist Society, “I consider him a dear friend and mentor and I’m honored to have his support.”
Scharf has given $505,000 to his campaign account since the end of November, after Parson announced Bailey as his pick.
Scharf also raised an additional $294,000 from a network of nearly 250 donors, according to ethics commission records.
Scharf, the former policy director for ex-Gov. Eric Greitens, tapped former members of Greitens’ team to help fund his potential campaign against Parson’s pick.
Parker Briden, former spokesman for Greitens, gave $100 to Scharf; and Jordan Duecker, another former Greitens official, contributed $250.
Austin Chambers, Greitens’ former campaign manager, gave the maximum allowed donation of $2,650.
Nicholas Maddux, former advisor to Greitens and current consultant for Axiom Strategies, also contributed the maximum amount to Scharf.
Bailey this week formed his own campaign account, which has yet to report contributions.
Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6186
@JackSuntrup on Twitter