Yesterday, as American’s complained about the Fourth falling on a Tuesday, former Libertarian Presidential candidate Austin Petersen, in front of a crowd of several hundred supporters, announced his intention to seek Missouri’s Republican nomination for US Senate.
The announcement that Petersen would be running for Senate came as no surprise – for months the 37 year old has dropped some not-so-subtle hints that he planned to challenge Senator Claire McCaskill in 2018. What was somewhat of a surprise, however, was that Petersen was deciding to switch parties.
The decision to run as a Republican wasn’t easy for Petersen, and in his farewell letter to the Libertarian Party, Petersen describes what led to him making such a decision;
For the last eight weeks, I’ve spent six hours a day calling my supporters to ask them their thoughts on how I might best advance liberty. I took the time to listen to every single persons’ opinion about a potential opportunity to seek a seat in the U.S. Senate here in my home state of Missouri.
Of the thousands of people I spoke to, all encouraged a run, hundreds donated, and the vast majority offered their opinion regarding which party I should align with. Over 98% of them, including registered Libertarians, independents, Republicans, and even Democrats, said to run GOP.
Those who think that running as a Republican would show Petersen’s “true colors” were right. During his 30 minute speech to the crowd, Petersen passionately discussed the issues that matter most to him; repealing and not replacing Obamacare, reducing regulation, auditing the Pentagon to find bureaucratic waste, criminal justice reform, lowering taxes, treating drug addiction as a public health problem instead of a criminal issue, etc. If his platform sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same set of values he ran on while seeking the Libertarian nomination for president last summer.
Petersen’s announcement came one day after establishment favorite, Representative Ann Wagner, announced she will not challenge Claire McCaskill in 2018. In her statement on said decision, Wagner rationalized her decision;
“While I am grateful for the incredible support and encouragement I have received from across Missouri to run for United States Senate, I am announcing today my intention to run for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018. The 2nd District is my home. It’s where I grew up, went to school, have worked and volunteered, raised my kids, and attend church every week — there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.”
The former US Ambassador to Luxembourg has several reasons not to run for Senate, as the “Washington Examiner” reported;
“Republicans close to the congresswoman stressed that the decision had little, if anything, to do with the politics of giving up her relatively safe seat to run for Senate with an unpopular Republican in the White House and a healthcare agenda that has been rejected by a broad cross-section of Americans.”
With Wagner withdrawing her name from consideration, attention shifts to other potential Republican nominees. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Vicky Hartzler are both expected to explore their own senate runs, but it is Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley that seems to be the establishment favorite. The 37 year old is a favorite of Mitch McConnell, and has only been on his current job for six months. Supporters have urged him to run believing Hawley can unite all conservatives.
While the charismatic Hawley has made waves recently for suing three pharmaceutical companies in the state (which could be seen as a political counter measure since Claire McCaskill has made opiod abuse a focus) friends of liberty should be wary of throwing their support behind a candidate supported by political insiders. After all, there are enough Senators who wax poetically about the virtue of the Constitution and civil liberties, right up until the point where they support warrant-less wiretaps.
While Hawley, if he announces his intent to run, may be the favorite heading into the Republican primary, Petersen is hoping to use Missouri’s own primary rules against them.
Missouri holds an “open primary” meaning that any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the Republican primary. Petersen hopes that this will play to his advantage as he intends to seek support not only among the base, but among Libertarians and Independents as well. If Petersen is able to successfully convey his message, he could not only win the nomination, but pose a real challenge to McCaskill as well.