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ST. CHARLES, Mo. — U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has announced who he is endorsing to take Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat, after he retires later this year. 

Four of the six candidates running for U.S. Senate had 90 minutes Saturday to tell a room full of supporters why to vote for them, but the biggest news of the day actually happened before the forum as Hawley endorsed Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. 

“I’m so thrilled, I’m so grateful, he is such a champion for our conservative values in Washington and has been such a powerful voice in what Missouri believes in,” Hartzler said in an exclusive interview Saturday.

During a statewide gathering of Republican leaders and activists, the candidates hoping to fill Blunt’s seat took the stage at Lincoln Days at the St. Charles Convention Center. 

“The first thing we need to do is secure the border,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said.

“We’ve got to get spending under control,” Congressman Billy Long said. 

Moments before the forum, Hawley, while standing next to Hartzler, announced his support. 

“People trust Josh, they respect him as a true conservative who is out there on the forefront fighting and for him to recognized I am that way as well,” Hartzler said. 

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

While the endorsement was not mentioned in the forum, other candidates told reporters, they were not surprised. 

“I knew that was coming whenever the day that Vicky hired Josh’s team to represent her,” Long said. “I called Josh and said this looks to me like you might getting in with Vicky.”

“Josh Hawley’s endorsement of Hartzler is just what you would expect from a person who has high political office will endorse somebody else that has been a five-year congresswoman,” Mark McCloskey, attorney, and candidate for US Senate said. 

When asked, McCloskey said he did not ask for Hawley’s endorsement. 

“I didn’t ask him for it and he didn’t offer it to me, so read your own interpretation,” McCloskey said. 

Former Gov. Eric Greitens and Senate President Dave Schatz were also invited but did not participate in the forum. The Missouri Senate held a rare Saturday session as the chamber continues to work towards finding a solution on how to redraw the state’s congressional map. 

All four candidates at the forum said they support a 7 Republican – 1 Democrat map, but Hartzler was hesitant to endorse that kind of map. 

“We ought to try to get as conservative as a map as possible, and if it’s 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.”

Besides redistricting, other topics that were discussed were abortion issues, election reform, public safety, and the southern border. 

“We have to back the Blue, back the police, fund the police, don’t defund the police and criminalize crime,” Long said.

Schmitt said this race is the “fight to save America.”

“As your attorney general, I have taken Joe Biden to the Supreme Court twice and won already, and we’re going to continue that,” Schmitt said. 

He also mentioned his suits against school districts and the Biden administration for masks and vaccine mandates. Schmitt also mentioned if elected, he would like to serve on the judiciary committee, to block the “woke justices and judges that President Biden has in the pipeline.”

During the forum, Hartzler also brought up education saying, “We should be teaching ABCs, not CRT [critical race theory].”

Long told reporters that he plans to support the winner of the primary, no what which Republican wins, but he wishes Saturday was more in the form of a debate instead of a forum. 

“It’s a different format where you can’t really talk, so everyone kind of gave their talking points,” Long said.
In her interview, Hartzler mentioned she had more endorsements, but could not give any details. She also plans to travel the state with Hawley during her campaign.