Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said Monday that he would not run for a third term in 2022, becoming the fifth Republican senator to announce his retirement this cycle.
“After 14 General Election victories — three to county office, seven to the United States House of Representatives, and four statewide elections — I won’t be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate next year,” he said in a video announcing his decision.
Former Gov. Eric Greitens had already said he was considering a primary challenge to Blunt for not sufficiently backing former President Donald Trump, who carried Missouri by 15 points in November.
Missouri GOP strategist James Harris said Greitens, who left office in 2018 amid multiple scandals, did not pose a threat to Blunt, and he doubted whether the threat of a primary factored into the senator’s decision.
“I think Roy chose this himself,” said Harris. “I think he would have had … enough support to prevail in any general election scenario and a Republican primary.”
Blunt’s retirement could prompt a crowded GOP primary to replace him. Potential candidates include Greitens, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and multiple members of the congressional delegation, including Reps. Jason Smith, Ann Wagner and Sam Graves.
Wagner said in a statement Monday that she was “humbled by the outpouring of encouragement from folks across our great state today. I take their outreach seriously, and plan to discuss with my family what the future holds for me in the coming days.”
Smith tweeted Monday that he also was humbled by Missourians reaching out to him and would “continue talking to working class families, farmers and small business owners across our state to see how I can best serve and protect them” from a Democratic agenda that “threatens the things we value most.”
Democratic Scott Sifton, a former state senator, jumped into the race last month. Two other Democrats have already filed statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission: Marine veteran Lucas Kunce and activist Tim Shepard. Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state who lost to Blunt by 3 points in 2016, reiterated in a tweet Monday that he will not run for Senate next year.
Blunt was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after seven terms in the House. He is currently No. 4 in Senate GOP leadership, serving as Republican Policy Committee chairman.
“This is a big day in the history of Missouri politics,” said Missouri GOP strategist Gregg Keller, who described Blunt as a “giant.” Blunt has been in elected office since 1973, first as a county clerk and later as Missouri secretary of state. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1992 before running for the House four years later.
Other Senate Republican who have said they are retiring this cycle include Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania. Burr’s and Toomey’s seats are expected to be competitive, according to early ratings by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.