(CN) — Veteran GOP Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, currently number four in the Senate Republican leadership, announced Monday he will not seek a third term in 2022.
The decision, which came via a video announcement, caught the political world by surprise and opens the race for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat next year.
Blunt, 71, is expected to be replaced on the ballot by one of several young, up-and-coming Missouri officials that could include Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 after investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, is also weighing up the possibility of a run for senator.
Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe praised Blunt for his work on behalf of the state in a statement posted to Twitter, and did not rule out throwing his own hat in the ring.
“I intend to spend some time talking with family, friends, and supporters about how I can best contribute to the future of our great state,” he said.
Before being elected senator in 2014 and again in 2018, Blunt served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“In every job Missourians have allowed me to have, I’ve tried to do my best,” Blunt said in his statement Monday. “In almost 12,000 votes in the Congress, I’m sure I wasn’t right every time, but you really make that decision based on the information you have at the time.”
Blunt is the fifth Republican senator to announce his retirement this term, preceded by Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Richard Burr of North Carolina.
Democrats are cautiously optimistic of winning the soon-to-be vacant seats in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but there would seem to be little chance of capturing Blunt’s seat upon his retirement.
Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill lost in 2018 to Trump loyalist Josh Hawley, and State Auditor Nicole Galloway is the only Democrat in a statewide elected office. Former Missouri Senator Scott Sifton is the only Democrat to have announced their candidacy for Blunt’s seat.
As further evidence of a red shift in Missouri, former President Donald Trump won the state by more than 15 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election after another decisive win there in 2016.
The Republican primary for Blunt’s seat will likely include a showdown between far-right candidates loyal to Trump and more moderate Republicans.
As the number of Republican retirements increases, the 2022 election takes on greater significance for the future of the party and whether Trump will continue to exert his influence over its leaders.
In Ohio, former treasurer and Senate hopeful Josh Mandel has already leveraged himself as the Trump candidate, going as far as claiming the 2020 election was stolen from the former president.
Blunt voted to acquit Trump on both sets of impeachment charges, and also voted against President Joe Biden’s recently passed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
“This massive spending bill, and the partisan process by which it was passed, fails the American people,” Blunt said of the legislation. “The bill is filled with things that have nothing to do with Covid-19 relief.”
Following Trump’s acquittal in his second Senate impeachment trial, Blunt called it “an unconstitutional proceeding.”
“I said before this trial started that I believe the constitutional purpose for presidential impeachment is to remove a president from office, not to punish a person after they have left office,” he said in a statement. “Impeachment is not a tool that should be used to settle political scores against a private citizen.”Follow @@kkoeninger44
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