Missouri Rep. Billy Long is joining the crowded Republican primary for U.S. Senate, portraying himself as the rightful successor to retiring Sen. Roy Blunt.
The southwest Missouri congressman announced his candidacy on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show Tuesday evening, making official a long-anticipated campaign that he called the “worst-kept secret in Missouri politics.”
“I followed Roy Blunt into the House, I have his congressional seat,” he said. “I want to follow him into the Senate.”
An entry by Long, a 65-year-old auctioneer, had been speculated for weeks. The official announcement came the same day St. Louis-area Rep. Ann Wagner declined to enter the race, instead announcing she would defend her seat against a Democratic challenger.
In Congress, Long has been a reliably conservative voice, often drawing more attention for his folksy manner and auctioneering skills than voting record.
He was one of five Missouri House members, all Republicans, who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election hours after rioters descended on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Other Republican candidates include Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt, former Gov. Eric Greitens, western Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey. Rep. Jason Smith remains another possible contender.
On the Democratic side, Marine Corps veteran Lucas Kunce, former state Sen. Scott Sifton, activist Tim Shepard, realtor and entrepreneur Spencer Toder and Air Force veteran Jewel Kelly are running. Former Gov. Jay Nixon said last week said he would not enter the race.
On Fox News, Long touched on the importance of Blunt’s seat for the GOP as it seeks to win back the Senate majority next year.
“You’re not going to do anything until you get the Senate back and I’m the guy that can win that Senate seat in Missouri and make sure that we don’t have a big race there,” he said, an apparent reference to fears among Republicans that a primary victory by Greitens, who resigned three years ago amid multiple scandals, would make the fall general election more competitive.
But some GOP strategists have also expressed concerns that a more crowded field could pave the way for Greitens to win with a plurality.
With a year to go before the primary, Republican candidates have jostled over who can outmaneuver the others in delivering messages to excite the party base. They have all sought to cultivate their ties to those in former President Donald Trumps’ orbit, all in hope of eventually winning the endorsement of Trump himself.
Long attended an April fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, and his campaign announcement aired Tuesday after he met with Trump in Manhattan, Politico reported.
He was elected to Congress in 2010 after Blunt moved to the Senate, and has never been re-elected with less than 63% of the vote in his southwestern Missouri district, which includes Springfield, Joplin and Branson.
Long told The Star in June that “whether I can win or not” was the most important factor he was weighing as he considered a race. He recalled how he was underestimated as a first-time congressional candidate.
“When I ran in 2010 for Congress, I was too fat, I wore a cowboy hat for 30 years, I was an auctioneer, I was an outsider … I was a joke. I was the Donald Trump of the place,” Long said in one of a series of Trump name-drops during the interview.
Long filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday to register a Senate campaign committee, naming state Rep. Jered Taylor, a Republic Republican, as treasurer. His congressional campaign committee has about $560,000 that he can put toward his Senate bid.
That would mean he’s entering the race with the third most cash on hand among the Republican candidates, according to the latest filings. Schmitt has about $1.1 million in cash and Hartzler has $1.4 million.