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Hartzler nabs Hawley’s endorsement as candidates face off at Lincoln Days

Long comes out swinging at Hartzler following forum

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Moments before four of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates took the stage in front of a crowded convention center room, Senator Josh Hawley stood next to Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and offered his support. 

Hawley said the path for Republicans retaking the U.S. Senate is with Hartzler, a social conservative who represents the 4th congressional district. 

“She is unafraid to stand up for conservative values, and she is exactly who Missouri needs in the U.S. Senate,” Hawley said. 

Senator Josh Hawley endorses Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler for U.S. Senate at Lincoln Days in St. Charles. (PROVIDED)

“I’m so thrilled and so grateful. He’s such a champion for our conservative values in Washington and has been such a powerful voice for what Missouri believes in,” Hartzler said in an interview. “People trust Josh. They respect him as a true conservative at the forefront fighting. And for him to recognize I’m that way as well, that I’m going to be a fighter … I think it’s going to go along ways.” 

News of the endorsement rippled through the halls of the St. Charles Convention Center as Hartzler was set to participate in a candidate forum with Congressman Billy Long, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and attorney Mark McCloskey during the statewide Lincoln Days event. 

Former Gov. Eric Greitens and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz did not participate in the forum. The Senate held a rare Saturday session as congressional redistricting has mired the upper chamber, meaning Schatz was needed in Jefferson City. 

Greitens skipped Lincoln Days because Karl Rove, a veteran GOP consultant, is slated to keynote later Saturday, according to a campaign spokesperson. 

While the endorsement was not mentioned during the forum, Long and McCloskey downplayed it when asked by reporters later Saturday afternoon. 

“It exemplifies why I’m in the race. Having Josh Hawley endorse Vicky Hartzler is just more evidence of machine politics … politics as usual,” McCloskey said. “People who have been long-term politicians being promoted to higher office by other politicians, the stepladder progression of politics from level to level to level. If you want to have real change, you can’t keep the same system.” 

McCloskey said he did not seek Hawley’s endorsement. 

Congressman Billy Long said he would support whoever the eventual GOP nominee is. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

Long, who represents Missouri’s 7th congressional district, said he was not surprised by the endorsement given Hartzler’s hiring of a firm that has done work for Hawley. 

But he immediately went on the attack following the candidate forum. He questioned Hartzler’s conservative voting record, comparing it to Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and accused her campaign of sending out a message implying his supporters have implored him to drop out of the Senate race. 

“I would never do that to someone, never ever,” Long said, adding Hartzler had not apologized. “Why are they worried about me if I’m as low in the polls as they say I am?”

A representative for Hartzler’s campaign responded: “The campaign is aware that a baseless rumor was spread by someone via text message that included false information. We were not involved in spreading this rumor in any way.”

Long said he would support whoever the GOP nominee is for the U.S. Senate seat. 

GOP candidates discuss redistricting, more 

While lawmakers in Jefferson City convened for a rare Saturday session to tackle congressional redistricting, the topic of maps also arose during the candidate forum. 

All candidates said they supported a map that would draw seven of the eight districts in favor of Republicans. 

However, Hartzler urged caution with a 7-1 map. 

“We ought to try to get as conservative as a map as possible, and if it is possible to get 7-1 without jeopardizing it in a Democratic election year, we should go for it,” Hartzler said. “If it’s going to jeopardize it, maybe we should think about it.” 

She also wants both military bases, Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, to remain in the same district. Both are currently in her 4th congressional district. 

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Congressman Billy Long, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, and attorney Mark McCloskey spoke at a candidate forum in St. Charles on Feb. 12. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

Sen. Denny Hoskins, holding the floor later Saturday, praised the four candidates for their support of a 7-1 map — a position the hardline Conservative Caucus members have taken as the redistricting debate has stretched on this week. He also praised Hartzler for advocating for keeping the two bases together, something he has also been a proponent of during the redistricting process. 

Aside from redistricting, the 90-minute forum covered abortion issues, election reform, public safety, the southern border, and more. 

If the candidate forum was a contest of who could best stay on message, Schmitt would have undoubtedly emerged victorious. The attorney general repeatedly said he is a “fighter” and pointed to his legal record defending Republican-leaning congressional redistricting maps and opposing the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates. 

Schmitt also repeated a slight jab at his opponents: “Instead of just talk, I’ve taken action,” he said. 

Hartzler often received enthusiastic applause, particularly when she turned to education during her opening and closing remarks. 

“We should be teaching ABCs, not CRT,” Hartzler said. 

Hartzler and Schmitt also criticized Hunter Biden, the president’s son, promising to “hold him accountable” or prosecute him. 

McCloskey drew applause when he opened with: “How many of us believe we’ve got a right to defend ourselves? How many of us understand that is a right granted to us by God?”

As of the latest filing reports, Hartzler has the most cash on hand with nearly $1.78 million. Schmitt reported about $1.27 million cash on hand, Schatz $1.16 million, Long $577,000, Greitens $290,000, and McCloskey $99,300. 

Hartzler said she has more endorsements coming and plans to spend some time traveling Missouri with Hawley.