ST. LOUIS—This week, Republican Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley wrote West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, formally requesting a hearing on radioactive contamination in the St. Louis region.

Reporting from The Associated Press, The Missouri Independent and MuckRock published last week uncovered new information in documents dating back to the 1940s, showing government agencies and companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons were indifferent to the dangers presented by the waste and contamination.

“We need to A, be doing oversight of the Department of Energy and try to figure out what in the world they've been doing for the last, what's it been now, five decades since they've known about this? But number two, we also need to hear from victims, we need to hear from the people of this community who have been affected by this, who had their lives stolen, who've had family members taken from them, because of the federal government's negligence. They deserve to be heard,” Hawley told Spectrum News Wednesday.

Hawley, who along with U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, has pressed for further remediation at Jana Elementary School, which sits adjacent to Coldwater Creek, the waterway that still has contamination connected to that era, last week announced he would introduce legislation calling for the federal government to pay the medical costs of anyone in the St. Louis region impacted by the contamination. 

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has been where Hawley has grilled federal officials over the situation at Jana Elementary, but he ultimately went around the panel and took a bill on the issue straight to the Senate floor where it passed. The bill, along with Bush’s companion legislation, has not advanced in the House.

Manchin, a moderate Democrat, has held increasing power in the Senate in recent years as neither party has had a filibuster-proof majority. He’s also been coy about his own plans for 2024. Like Hawley, he’s up for re-election next year, and could face West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in a general election. But are there greater ambitions that could distract his attention? He attended a town hall this week in New Hampshire with the group “No Labels” which could put up a third party presidential ticket.

Messages seeking comment from Manchin or the Senate committee were not returned Thursday. 

Hawley’s Democratic rivals in the Senate race in Missouri have been largely quiet on his approach to addressing the radiation issue. Lucas Kunce seized on reporting of previous campaign donations from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Republic Services, along with donations to Republican Senate campaign organizations.

His campaign confirms that half of a $2500 donation from Mallinckrodt given to Hawley’s 2016 campaign for Attorney General was returned after he was elected to the Senate in 2018. Hawley said Wednesday his Senate campaign committee does not take corporate contributions or corporate PAC funds, while his campaign noted he has no control over funds contributed to entities like the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Gore in 2024?

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore talked to reporters this week about his first six weeks in office. He was sworn in May 30 to succeed Kim Gardner, who resigned amid state legislative pressure and a suit by Attorney General Andrew Bailey to have her removed from office.

Gore spoke Wednesday of the work done to hire new staff, clear backlogs of homicide trials, and to process pending applications of warrants. When he was sworn in, he said talk of whether he would seek the office in his own right in 2024 was a distraction to the work at hand. 

With a primary election slated for a little more than a year from now, Gore sounded Wednesday like someone who didn’t have a roadmap for making an electoral decision. 

“I’m still at the point where I haven’t given that much thought exactly how I would go about making that decision.” he said.

David Mueller, a former public defender who announced his campaign for Circuit Attorney before Gore was appointed by Gov. Mike Parson, said late last month he was still in the race. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Gardner had previously announced plans to run for re-election and still has an active campaign filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Her latest campaign finance report dated July 17 showed having $98,176.74 cash on hand. Gardner could not be reached for comment.

Blunt honors

Former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt returns to the State Capitol in Jefferson City on Friday. His official portrait will be unveiled in the Capitol Rotunda. Gov. Mike Parson will be among those in attendance for the event. Blunt, a Republican, served as the state’s chief executive from 2005-2009 after serving a single term as Secretary of State. Since 2011, Blunt has been president of the American Automotive Policy Council, a Washington D.C. based lobbying association created by the major American automobile manufacturers. 

Blunt’s father, former Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who left office earlier this year after deciding against a re-election bid, made news this week with his appointment to the board of directors at Southwest Airlines.