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After Trump snub, Hartzler presses on with Senate campaign stop in St. Charles County

Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, throws her fist in the air while speaking to prospective voters for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat on Friday during a meeting of the St. Charles County Pachyderm Club in Lake St. Louis.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler noted that she’s been underestimated before.

During a campaign stop in Lake Saint Louis on Friday, Hartzler alluded to 2010, when she first ran for Congress. She wasn’t favored in the GOP primary, and people weren’t expecting her to unseat Ike Skelton in the general election. She ended up winning and has served in Congress since 2011.

Now as she navigates former President Donald Trump’s decision not to endorse her in the U.S. Senate primary, Hartzler is banking on barnstorming across the state in the campaign’s final days — and emphasizing backing from prominent Missouri Republican officials and groups.

“We're not going to recognize our country in a few years if we don't stop this train wreck of insanity. And that's what we are on,” Hartzler said. “And you know, I've got a plan to take our values, our ideas to Washington and turn things around. It's not hard.”

With nearly $1.5 million left in the bank, Hartzler still has firepower for the final stretch of the campaign. Her speech to the GOP faithful in St. Charles County pointed to her endorsement from U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, as well as key agricultural groups such as the Missouri Farm Bureau PAC.

She also hit on issues that appeal to Republican primary voters, such as criticism of President Joe Biden’s economic and energy policies and her opposition to transgender women participating in women’s sports.

Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Connie Watson, 73, of Wentzville, listens while U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler says why she should be the next senator from Missouri during a meeting Friday of the St. Charles County Pachyderm in Lake Saint Louis.

But some believe that Trump’s snub will hurt her chances. Trump posted on the social media platform Truth Social that he didn’t think Hartzler has “what it takes to take on the Radical Left Democrats, together with their partner in the destruction of our Country, the Fake News Media and, of course, the deceptive & foolish RINOs.”

Trump won Missouri by overwhelming margins, so his position could significantly affect the primary. Hartzler said she’s unfazed.

“I was a little surprised. And he knows that I've worked with him more than anybody else to get our country back on track,” Hartzler said. “But you know, I think people are just wanting to meet me personally. They're listening to Missourians who know me, and ultimately I think that's going to hold the most sway.”

Republican state Sen. Bill Eigel, who has not endorsed anyone in the race, said he doesn’t think Trump’s comments doom Hartzler. He said she’s hitting on issues that animate the GOP base, including national defense and transgender athletes.

“I think she's gonna be a very compelling candidate in the closing weeks,” Eigel said.

Hartzler is also facing an onslaught of ads from political action committees, especially ones linked to Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Much of those ads focused on how she’s received federal subsidies for her family businesses, including accepting money from the Paycheck Protection Program. 

Asked about those ads, Hartzler said they showcase that her opponents find her to be a major threat.

“The ones about money are really a hit on all agriculture. Because I'm just a farmer and participate in the same farm programs that everyone else does,” Hartzler said. “And as a small-business owner as well, we got PPP loans so that our employees could stay on their job during COVID.”

Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, touts her accomplishments in Congress on Friday during a meeting of the St. Charles County Pachyderm Club in Lake Saint Louis.

Hartzler and Wagner on same-sex marriage vote

At the same event where Hartzler spoke, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, explained why she voted for a House bill to codify same-sex marriage into law.

Wagner was one of 47 Republicans who voted to approve the legislation, which passed the House earlier this week. The bill, which also would guarantee that interracial marriage is legal, is in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner on why she voting for gay marriage bill
Wagner, R-Ballwin, was one of 47 Republicans voting to codify a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage into federal law.

Responding to a question from the audience, Wagner said she supported the bill because the Supreme Court case that ended up legalizing same-sex marriage everywhere depended on the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“As a conservative, I follow the Constitution pretty strictly,” Wagner said. “I can tell you that this has no bearing on the biblical definition of marriage in any way, shape or form. A pastor, a priest — no one will have to perform a same-sex marriage if they don't want.”

Hartzler was not in Washington when the bill came up for a vote, but she said she would have voted against it.

“I led the state marriage campaign in 2004. And 71% believed that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Hartzler said. "And I still believe that’s the model that we should have.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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