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Speculation about candidates begins as Sen. Blunt announces retirement

Next year could see one of the most hotly contested races in the nation after Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced that he will not seek reelection in 2022. His retirement has elevated the contest to replace him to national attention.

“After 14 general election victories — three to county office, seven to the United States House of Representative and four statewide elections — I won’t be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate next year,” Blunt said in a video message announcing his retirement.

Blunt, 71, has been a mainstay in Washington politics and the Republican establishment for more than two decades. First elected to the House in the 1996 GOP wave, Blunt served as House Republican whip before jumping to the Senate.

In announcing his retirement, Blunt joins GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Richard Burr of North Carolina, all of whom opted against seeking reelection in 2022. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have yet to reveal their plans.

Missouri is not likely to be a competitive state for Democrats on the Senate map next year — President Donald Trump won the state by 15 percentage points last year — though Blunt’s retirement is likely to set off a competitive primary battle to replace him and could give Democrats a chance to expand their 50-50 Senate majority.

The jockeying to replace Blunt is expected to begin in earnest. Just last week, former Gov. Eric Greitens said he was evaluating whether to run for the seat in 2022. Other potential GOP candidates include Rep. Ann Wagner, Rep. Jason Smith, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, whose father, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, once held the state’s other Senate seat.

Ashcroft indicated in a statement that he is considering making a run for Blunt’s seat, writing: “It is imperative that Republicans take back the Senate in 2022.”

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, vowed that Republicans “will hold this seat” and said the Senate GOP campaign arm “will work tirelessly” to do so.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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