TARGET 8 fact checks Josh Hawley's attack ad on Teresa Hensley

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COLUMBIA - Just days before the Nov. 8 election, candidates are still releasing attack ads against opponents. KOMU 8's Target 8 investigative team looked into the claims in Republican Attorney General candidate Josh Hawley’s most recent campaign ad, suggesting his Democratic opponent Teresa Hensley is a failed career politician.

The Missouri Attorney General race, among other state races, has caught national attention for its mega spending on campaign ads. According to the Center for Public Integrity, spending on TV ads for the race has totaled $14.3 million, making up nearly half the cost for all state attorney general TV ads in the nation combined.

The Target 8 team went through Hawley's ad to determine whether each attack is true, false, or incomplete. 

‘Teresa Hensley is a career politician. This is the sixth different office she's sought’: TRUE

Hensley started her career in politics in 1988 when she was appointed Raymore Alderman. Since then, Hensley has run for Cass County Circuit Judge, a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives, Cass County Prosecutor, a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and now she is running for Missouri Attorney General.

However, Hensley defends her political experience.

“When you’re looking at the top lawyer in the state of Missouri, not only is the experience for being a lawyer important, but I think it’s also important that you also have had some public service, that you’ve had a tested record for doing that,” Hensley said in an interview with the Target 8 team.

‘Voters rejected Hensley for prosecutor, state house, and Congress because she was just too liberal’: TRUE

Hensley lost to Republicans in these races. She served as Cass County Prosecutor from 2005-2014, but lost to the Republican candidate when she sought re-election. She also lost to Republican candidates when she ran for a Missouri House of Representatives seat and U.S. Congress.

Hensley said she prevailed against Republican opponents, though, when she ran for re-election in Cass County.

“I ran for office then in 2006 and 2010 in what I considered to be pretty much a Republican county,” Hensley said.

Hensley also served as Raymore Alderman and Cass County Circuit Judge.

Other Issues

With Hawley leading in most polls, some people questioned why Hawley ran an attack ad against Hensley at all.

Marvin Overby, an American politics professor at the University of Missouri, said it’s not unusual in this situation.

“Normal dynamics you get when you often have an incumbent running against an unknown challenger, and the incumbent doesn’t want to give the unknown challenger any sort of air time by mentioning his or her name, that’s not really in play this time because we’ve got two challengers for an open seat,” Overby said.

Overby said Missouri’s relaxed campaign finance laws also contribute to the state’s influx of campaign ads.

“There are national spending laws, national campaign finance laws in place, we don’t have any of those at the state level in Missouri,” Overby said. “You can make unlimited campaign contributions, and candidates and campaigns can take unlimited campaign contributions. We’re the only state in the union that is that open about spending. 

Missouri voters will also decide whether to cap unlimited donations for state office on Tuesday. Amendment 2 would restrict individual campaign contributions to $2,600.