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Ann Wagner opting against Missouri Senate bid leaves Vicky Hartzler as sole female GOP contender

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Rep. Ann Wagner bowed out of the Missouri Senate race as the Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt solidified as a contest between former Gov. Eric Greitens, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, and state attorney general Eric Schmitt.

Wagner revealed in an op-ed for the Missouri Times that she would instead run for reelection to her suburban St. Louis congressional seat, the second time in four years that the veteran Republican has moved toward a Senate bid before opting against. Wagner’s decision, while suggesting a lack of confidence in topping the Republican field in the Senate primary, exudes optimism in GOP prospects for recapturing the House in 2022.

“I am running for reelection to Congress because Missourians need a principled fighter who will hold the Biden administration accountable,” Wagner wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday.

Wagner’s exit could boost Hartzler.

She is now virtually guaranteed to be the only woman running in the Republican primary and could attract significant support from conservative groups dedicated to electing more GOP women to Congress. On Tuesday afternoon, she was endorsed by the political action committee “Value in Electing Women” (the group also backed Wagner for reelection to Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District).

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“Rep. Hartzler’s decade in Congress will allow her to hit the ground running in the Senate,” Julie A. Conway, VIEWPAC's executive director, said in a statement. “It’s critical that we keep this seat red if we are to get the majority back in the Senate, and Vicky is the candidate who can do that. It will be great to have her join our tremendous team of GOP female senators.”

Hartzler had already received the backing of Maggie’s List, a PAC that supports anti-abortion Republican women candidates. As the only woman running for Missouri’s open Senate seat, she might also receive the support of incumbent Republican women in Congress who have in recent years been active in supporting female GOP candidates seeking to join their ranks.

Wagner was preparing to run for Senate in 2018 but pulled the plug after top Republicans in Missouri and Washington coalesced behind Sen. Josh Hawley, who was then Missouri's attorney general. Wagner’s uncertain odds in the Senate primary no doubt influenced her decision this time around — former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, still looming, could prove critical, and she was unlikely to win it.

But sources familiar with Wagner’s thinking said the prospect of being back in the majority in 2023, offering her a chance to pass meaningful legislation through the House, was attractive.

In 2018, under a majority-Republican Congress and with Trump in the White House, her signature legislation to reduce sex trafficking was signed into law. Meanwhile, Wagner has been active in running a caucus of Republicans from suburban districts that aims to improve the GOP’s performance with these crucial voters. With Wagner out of the Senate race, Missouri Republicans await word from Reps. Billy Long and Jason Smith to see if they will run.

Even if one or both of them jump in, the primary is likely to be a contest between Greitens and Schmitt, with Hartzler being a potential spoiler if the two front-runners beat each other up and end up too damaged. Greitens, who has led in most of the early polling, was forced to resign as governor in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, and he is heavily courting Trump’s endorsement.

He hired Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top official in the former president’s 2020 campaign and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. And he has been endorsed by former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, Trump’s attorney during his one term in office. Schmitt also is seeking Trump’s endorsement. The attorney general is the only other primary candidate to have run and won statewide.

Schmitt is running as a consensus conservative, tight with the Trump and traditional wings of the party, who is not ethically tainted.

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Tags: News, Campaigns, 2022 Elections, Missouri Senate, Donald Trump, Congress, Republican Party

Original Author: David M. Drucker

Original Location: Ann Wagner opting against Missouri Senate bid leaves Vicky Hartzler as sole female GOP contender

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