GOP rep declines Senate bid challenging McCaskill

GOP rep declines Senate bid challenging McCaskill
© Greg Nash

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) announced that she is declining a bid to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (D-Mo.), dealing another blow to Republicans who are still searching for a top-tier challenger. 

“After much prayer and discussion with my family I have decided to seek re-election to the United States House of Representatives,” Hartzler announced on Monday. “I believe the best way to continue to serve [the 4th congressional district] is by taking their common-sense ideas and Heartland values to Washington.

“I believe my focus needs to be on rebuilding and restoring our national defense, getting our economy moving again, and fixing a broken Washington for the hardworking people of our state in my current role should the good people of this district give me this honor again. While we are moving in the right direction, there is much to be done.”

USA Today first reported the news.

Hartzler’s decision against mounting a campaign comes after Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) surprisingly opted against a Senate bid and decided to run for reelection to her House seat.

McCaskill’s seat is a top opportunity for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections as they seek to build on their slim majority in the Senate. President Trump won Missouri by nearly 20 points in November.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) is seen as a top recruit to take on McCaskill, and Vice President Pence has reached out to him about a Senate campaign, according to multiple reports. A Hawley spokeswoman said last week that the state attorney general is giving a bid “serious consideration,” but he hasn’t indicated when he’ll make a final decision.

McCaskill is expected to have a tough reelection race in 2018, but she was at the top of the pack of vulnerable Senate Democrats in terms of fundraising in the second quarter of the year. She raised $3.1 million, bringing her total cash on hand to $5.1 million.

And Senate Democrats celebrated more potential GOP opponents declining to run, citing the GOP's effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, which is currently stalled in the upper chamber.

“It’s no surprise that Republican Senate candidates across the country are refusing to run under their party’s toxic health care plan that spikes costs and strips coverage for the middle class in order to give big insurance companies a break,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said.

“The GOP brand is in tatters and their candidates have nothing to run on except a string of broken promises.”

Still, Democrats have a tough Senate map next year, needing to defend 25 seats, 10 of which are in states that Trump won. Meanwhile, Republicans only need to protect eight seats.

Updated 12:15 p.m.