House

Missouri GOP rep announces she won’t run for Senate

Greg Nash

Missouri Republican Rep. Ann Wagner has decided not to run for Senate in 2018 in a decision that deals a huge blow to the party’s chances of flipping the vulnerable seat. 

The Washington Examiner first reported Wagner’s decision in a Monday story where she told the paper that she wanted to continue to represent the “place and people that I love.” 

“Those who know me well know I put my family and my community first. While I am grateful for the incredible support and encouragement I have received from across Missouri to run for United States Senate, I am announcing today my intention to run for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018,” she said in the statement.

{mosads}”The 2nd District is my home. It’s where I grew up, went to school, have worked and volunteered, raised my kids, and attend church every week — there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.” 

Wagner had been widely expected to run for the seat — her profile and strong fundraising chops made her one of the GOP’s top would-be recruits in the bid to defeat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Sources close to Wagner were telling Republicans on Capitol Hill that a run was imminent. She raised $804,000 in the first quarter of 2017 to give her $2.7 million in cash on hand a strong figure that only seemed to reinforce the likelihood of a bid.

This spring, she stepped down from her post as the National Republican Congressional Committee’s finance chair in what many saw as her clearing her schedule for a tough Senate bid.

So the news, dropped just one day before the July 4 holiday, caught many by surprise.

Republican sources close to Wagner told The Examiner that the decision had little to do with the volatile political landscape for Republicans, who are trying to thread the needle on unpopular plans to repeal ObamaCare while President Trump sports a poor favorability rating.

But the reversal is notable considering the climate where Democrats so far sport a strong lead on generic ballots and have posted stronger-than expected performances in red-leaning House special elections.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) needled Republicans for Wagner’s decision, arguing that it was proof that the political landscape is putting serious pressure on would-be Republican candidates. 

“It’s no surprise potential Republican Senate candidates are refusing to run under their party’s toxic health care plan that spikes costs and strips coverage for hardworking families in order to give big insurance companies another tax break,” DSCC spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement. 

“The spotlight will now shift to other potential candidates who have been hiding from the reckless Republican agenda, but for these potential candidates there will be no escape from the GOP’s proposals that will hurt Missouri’s middle class.”

Republicans have been bullish on the prospect of toppling McCaskill in a 2018 cycle that sports a very favorable map for Republicans.

McCaskill is one of the 10 Democratic senators defending a seat in a state Trump won — by 19 points. And Republicans are still smarting from watching their lead over McCaskill in 2012 evaporate after GOP nominee and then-Rep. Todd Akin made his infamous comment about “legitimate rape.”

Wagner’s decision hurts the party’s chances at taking the seat, but McCaskill could still face a tough challenger.

Some GOP leaders have been pushing Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to consider a bid, an effort that could heat up now. And some in Missouri’s congressional delegation could reconsider their decisions not to run now that the field is clear.

A source close to Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler told The Hill that the Republican congresswoman has not ruled out a bid. 

—Updated at 2:24 p.m.

Tags Claire McCaskill

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