Missouri state Rep. Marsha Haefner says she’s weighing a run for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s seat after being encouraged by U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner.
Haefner, a St. Louis Republican, said she plans to travel to Washington, D.C., in the near future to meet with national party officials about her interest in a run.
“I would hope that the Republican Party would support someone who is not a white male,” said Haefner, a 66-year-old grandmother who owns a greenhouse and garden center. “A little diversity would be good.”
Haefner had been planning to run for Wagner’s congressional seat if Wagner had pursued a run against McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat, as most political observers in Missouri expected.
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However, when Wagner decided against a Senate run, Haefner began considering the Senate seat after receiving encouragement from the congresswoman that the GOP needs a female candidate to take on McCaskill. The race could determine control of the U.S. Senate in 2018 and is expected to be one of the most expensive contests in the country that year.
“I’m not saying she endorsed me, but she’s encouraged me,” Haefner said of Wagner.
Another Republican state representative who had been planning to run for Wagner’s congressional seat, Paul Curtman, announced an exploratory campaign for Senate earlier this month.
Wagner’s campaign spokesman, Brecht Mulvihill, said the GOP congresswoman has encouraged multiple potential candidates to take a look at the race.
“Republicans have a deep bench in Missouri and Ann has encouraged interested candidates to speak with their families, consider their options and decide how they can best serve our state in 2018,” Mulvihill said in an email.
“As a party, we are fully committed to retiring Sen. McCaskill and replacing her with a principled conservative who shares our Missouri values.”
Wagner’s encouragement of Haefner and other potential candidates comes at a time when many national Republicans are very openly courting Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Vice President Mike Pence called Hawley earlier this month and four of the state’s former Republican senators — John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, Jack Danforth and Jim Talent — released a letter last week calling for Hawley to enter the race.
Despite weeks of speculation, Hawley has not yet formally announced his future plans. His spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Haefner said that Hawley’s potential candidacy will not determine whether she runs, but she criticized the attorney general for weighing a run after less than a year in office.
“When you say you’re not a politician and you want to serve the people of Missouri as their attorney general…and then you’ve served for eight months, I think it’s wrong to just leave us,” said Haefner, who will be prevented from seeking another term in the Missouri House after eight years because of term limits. “He already has a really important job for the state of Missouri.”
Haefner, who has served on the budget committee in the Missouri House, said that if she runs her main priorities will be pursuing welfare room and reining in Medicaid costs.