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Vicky Hartzler on a potential Senate race and how she’s forged her political path

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Vicky Hartzler knew as a child she would go into public service. She remembers praying at 9 years old, asking God how she could make a difference, when “state representative” popped into her head. 

Hartzler represented Cass and Johnson counties in the Missouri Legislature for six years before eventually serving the 4th congressional district in Washington, D.C. But now, Hartzler has found herself praying about her future again, whether she’s meant to continue her political career in the U.S. Senate

“Definitely we are looking very seriously at it,” Hartzler said about her rumored interest in replacing outgoing Senator Roy Blunt. “We’re very excited about the opportunities to bring compassionate, effective, strong leadership perhaps to more Missourians.” 

The Republican congresswoman said she’s not ready to make an official announcement but is spending her time getting counsel about the open seat. She was in Jefferson City Tuesday where she met with Gov. Mike Parson, legislators, and members of the Missouri Farm Bureau before sitting down with The Missouri Times for a long-ranging interview about her political life. 

“Missouri deserves the best, most effective representation possible,” she said. 

Becoming the ‘right Hartzler’

Hartzler, 60, represents a large and diverse swatch of Missouri in Congress, from the Columbia area sweeping west to just below Kansas City and down to Pittsburg and Lebanon, settling north of Springfield. Her journey to Congress came with the narrow defeat of longtime incumbent Congressman Ike Skelton. She is the second Republican woman elected to Congress in Missouri. 

“I did a lot of praying and thinking about [running for Congress]. I was very concerned about the direction our country was going in and the leadership in Congress and how our representative was casting his vote with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and policies that we did not believe in here in Missouri,” Hartzler said. “I felt like it was time to step back in and make a difference.” 

Hartzler is a former home economics teacher and has a farm in Cass County along with her husband. They raise corn, soybeans, and wheat on their farm along with a cow-calf operation. 

“There’s no one in Congress who loves their district more than her,” Eric Bohl, her former chief of staff, said. “She absolutely loves where she comes from and the people she represents. That goes a long way. She’s not someone who plays politics a lot, and I think there’s a lot of value to that. [Hartzler] is someone we don’t have enough of these days in Washington.” 

Hartzler is now in her 11th year in Congress. She has worked to ensure Gold Star families receive full insurance benefits and raise awareness about the “threat of China.” She’s advocated for religious liberties and is the only member of the Missouri congressional delegation to sit on the Agriculture Committee this year. 

U.S. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler sits for an interview in The Missouri Times office. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

Given her background in education, Hartzler still has teenagers at the forefront of her mind, particularly those who struggle with drug use or addiction. After a visit to the southern border a few years ago, Hartzler said she learned cartels were using drones to bring drugs across the border, and agents did not have the authority or tools to take them down. So she successfully worked on legislation giving federal agencies the ability to destroy or control those drones through the FAA Reauthorization Act in 2018. 

“To hear our laws were antiquated and these cartels were able to bring drugs here and hurt my community and my district, I knew I needed to do something,” she said. 

But one of her proudest moments as a Missouri congresswoman came during her first term. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) determined the Lake of the Ozarks shoreline had been incorrectly surveyed, and people built homes and other structures below the appropriate elevation. The federal agency originally ordered about 1,200 homes be destroyed, Hartzler said. 

She sprung into action, working with fellow Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, then-U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, and Blunt to rally homeowners, local officials, and media. It was an “all hands on deck” situation, she said. 

“Because of our efforts here at home and in D.C., we were successful in our efforts, and FERC ultimately grandfathered in all of those structures. That literally saved 1,200 families from having their homes taken away by the federal government,” Hartzler said. 

Hartzler still remembers the night her political career began in the early 1990s. Her state representative, then for HD 124, was retiring, and a family friend called her husband, Lowell Hartzler. She watched him look over at her and nod, unable to hear what was being said on the other end of the line. 

“You’ve got the wrong Hartzler,” her husband said before handing over the phone. 

So she became the “right Hartzler” and rose to the occasion, becoming one of just a few Republicans to hold that seat.

Now, with another open seat, Hartzler has another decision to make. But for her, it’s no longer about being the “right Hartzler” but the candidate God has chosen to run for the seat, she said.