Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt told reporters Tuesday that Illinois lawmakers had created a state budget disaster in recent years.
At a news conference along the Mississippi River in St. Louis, the first-term Republican urged Missouri legislators to learn from Illinois’ experience and plot a different course that included further cutting taxes, shrinking government and addressing state worker pensions.
“My word of caution is this,” he said: “Don’t be like Illinois.”
But to many political observers in the Show-Me State, Schmitt’s news conference had just as much to do with raising his profile as he actively ponders a run for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
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Schmitt is a former state senator from St. Louis County who was elected state treasurer in November. His name has emerged as one of a handful of potential candidates for a U.S. Senate seat after the presumptive GOP frontrunner in that race, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, announced she would instead remain in the House.
Schmitt hasn’t spoken publicly about the speculation regarding his political intentions. But whether or not he will throw his hat in the ring largely depends on another potential candidate: Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth and other high-profile Republicans have been trying for months to recruit Hawley into the 2018 race, which is expected to be among the most hotly contested Senate campaigns in the country.
If he jumps in, Hawley would be the immediate frontrunner. Thus far, Hawley, who was also elected in November, has not explicitly said whether he’ll take the plunge.
Austin Petersen, a former Libertarian presidential candidate, has already announced his intent to run as a Republican. U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and state Rep. Paul Curtman are also considering entering the race.