Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Wednesday he will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
“After intense, prayerful consideration (my wife and I) have decided to remain devoted to the work Missouri voters have entrusted to me as secretary of state,” Ashcroft said in a statement released Wednesday morning.
Ashcroft was considered the likely frontrunner for the GOP nomination in the aftermath of Sen. Roy Blunt’s announcement on Monday that he wouldn’t seek a third term.
With his name ID — he’s won two statewide races, and his father is a former U.S. Senator, Missouri Governor and U.S. Attorney General — Ashcroft was seen as the only candidate with a chance to clear the field and avoid a messy primary. His supporters note that he garnered more votes in 2020 than any other candidate in Missouri — including President Donald Trump.
Ashcroft’s decision to forgo a run means the Republican primary could devolve into a scrum, with nearly a dozen possible candidates considering jumping into the race.
Among the people who are publicly pondering entering the primary are Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, former Gov. Eric Greitens, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, businessman John Brunner and U.S. Reps. Jason Smith and Billy Long.
Behind-the-scenes, forces were marshaling this week in the hopes of convincing Ashcroft to run — in the hopes of both avoiding a contentious primary and thwarting a potential Greitens comeback.
Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2018 as part of a plea deal to avoid a trial on a felony charge, has been openly discussing a U.S. Senate run for weeks.
Despite the litany of scandals that forced him from office, and the revelation last year that the Navy was reluctant to allow him to return to service because of those scandals, most still believe Greitens has enough support among the party’s base that he could emerge from a crowded primary.
Sources close to Ashcroft say as recently as Tuesday was leaning towards running. What changed is unclear, although the going theory before Blunt’s announcement was that Ashcroft was intent on running for governor in 2024, when Gov. Mike Parson will be barred from running again because of term limits.
This story was republished with permission from the Missouri Independent, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering state government, politics and policy.