JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s new attorney general will officially take office in a few weeks, after Eric Schmitt was elected as the state’s newest U.S. Senator in November.
Gov. Mike Parson didn’t have to go far to find Missouri’s new top prosecutor. Andrew Bailey is currently serving as the governor’s general counsel until he’s sworn in next month as attorney general. Bailey talked about his priorities and his plan to stay in that role for the foreseeable future.
“I am myopically focused on being the attorney general for the State of Missouri,” he said. “The governor knows I have a passion for public service and where my heart is on that.”
Bailey, 41, is no stranger to the attorney general’s office. After attending the University of Missouri Law School following two tours to Iraq in response to the 9/11 attacks, he was hired at the attorney general’s office working in civil litigation defending the state’s criminal justice system.
“General Chris Koster was the attorney general when I started there and worked for him for a couple of years before moving to the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office,” Bailey said. “When I was working in Warren County, one of my additional duties was the attorney for the county juvenile office, and it was in that capacity that I developed a really heart of children in need of year, and it broke my heart to see kids that didn’t have a home to go to.”
While being an assistant prosecutor in Warren County, Bailey and his wife became foster parents and ended up adopting three kids out of the system. He then became general counsel at the Missouri Department of Corrections and before moving to the governor’s office.
“My vision is to protect the constitution, enforce the laws as written, defend the state, support the counties and train a new generation of public service-minded attorneys,” Bailey said.
Last month, the governor appointed Bailey as the new attorney general, the state’s third since 2018. The two previous attorneys general, Schmitt and Josh Hawley, have been elected to serve in Washington D.C. in the U.S. Senate.
“The previous two attorneys general have done such a fantastic job that the people have rewarded them with higher office,” Bailey said. “The governor wants to see that carried on, but he also wants to see someone that can be there for a while and invest in the organization.”
During his press conference in November, Parson said very few Missouri governors have had the “opportunity and responsibility to appoint an attorney general on behalf of the people of Missouri once, let along twice.”
“One of the other things the governor is interested in is stability in the office,” Bailey said. “Intend to run for office, I will be the incumbent, I will have been there for two years, and the people will be able to look at the work I’ve done on behalf of the state.”
Already planning to be on the ballot in 2024, Bailey agrees with Schmitt’s lawsuit against the Biden administration on college debt forgiveness.
“It is up to our state’s attorney general to stand in the gap against federal overreach, and we see that happening in all sorts of fronts today that were unimaginable previously,” Bailey said. “That is an important suit, and I’m glad to see the United States’ Supreme Court grant cert on that and agree to hear that case.”
Schmitt also filed dozens of lawsuits within the past two years against schools that required students to wear masks. Bailey said it’s the right of the attorney general to get involved.
“I think COVID was a unique time in our state’s history, in our nation’s history, and a lot of people were trying to do the right thing for the right reasons,” Bailey said. “However, we cannot sacrifice freedom because of a perceived emergency. We have to protect children, but we also have to let children be children and be free.”
The husband and father of four want to make sure parents also have a say in what their child is taught. Leadership in both the House and the Senate plan to discuss critical race theory (CRT) and some say it’s even a priority.
“It’s important that the attorney general uses the legal apparatus of the state to ensure that the schools are meeting that mission, that parents have a voice in the process and that it’s about education not indoctrination,” Bailey said. “As a parent who has children who attend school, I want to know what they are being taught, how it’s being taught and make sure the schools are about education.”
He said he also plans to focus on protecting people from online scams, data breaches and crime, making sure prosecutors across the state are doing their job.
“I think that you’ve got to support local control, but I also think that when you’re in an executive function in government, you have to enforce the laws as written, you don’t get to pick and choose,” Bailey said. “We’ve got to look at the data, we’ve got to look at the numbers and where there are shortcomings and failings and the attorney general will be there to assist, but the voters also need to hold people accountable.”
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said just minutes after Parson’s announcement last month she wants integrity restored in the office and a leader who puts Missourians first. In response to her statement, Bailey said there’s not a deficit of integrity that has to be made up for.
“There was integrity in the office previously, there’s integrity in the office now, and I will continue to bring integrity into that office,” Bailey said. “I’m excited to stand up and fight for the constitutional rights of the people of Missouri.”
Bailey said he will start to meet with the staff to get updated on ongoing litigation cases in the attorney general’s office. He is set to be sworn in Jan. 3.
Later this month, the governor will also appoint a new state treasurer after Scott Fitzpatrick was elected state auditor in November.