Vicky Hartzler

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents a very conservative and mostly rural area of central and western Missouri in Congress, officially entered the crowded race Thursday for the Senate seat fellow conservative Roy Blunt is giving up once his term ends.

Hartzler, 60, announced her bid in the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit. Blunt said in March he would not seek a third term next year.

Hartzler, who won her 4th District House seat in 2010 by defeating longtime Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton, is taking a risk with her Senate bid, as she can’t simultaneously run for reelection to the House. Her GOP challengers include three candidates with broader statewide name recognition — former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt and St. Louis lawyer Mark McCloskey, who made headlines last year when he and his wife were charged for waving guns at racial injustice protesters who marched down their private street.

Blunt is one of five Republican senators who aren't seeking reelection — a retirement wave that gives Democrats fresh hope in preserving their razor-thin Senate majority.

All of the Republican candidates seeking Blunt's seat are outspoken supporters of former President Donald Trump. Hartzler, in her speech, noted that she voted with Trump more than 95% of the time.

Five lesser-known Democrats also are running for the seat representing the heavily Republican state in the Senate.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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