Despite Trump shun, Vicky Hartzler says experience puts her ahead in the race for U.S. Senate
Former President Trump has refused to endorse Hartzler, but the U.S. Representative is confident she's the Republican who can keep a Senate seat for her party.
There are 21 Republican candidates vying to replace Missouri’s U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who is not running for reelection this year, but most attention is being paid to the race’s top three candidates.
In the latest poll, U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler has a slim lead against state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Gov. Eric Greitens. The poll shows nearly 17% of GOP voters in Missouri remain undecided.
On Friday, Hartzler made her case to primary voters on KCUR’s Up To Date.
“I am a leader in Washington, D.C., fighting for Missouri values,” Hartzler said. “That track record and experience of getting things done and being a lifelong conservative is certainly different than the other two in this race and I think ultimately is going to make a difference on August 2.”
As recently as last week, former President Trump refused to endorse Hartzler, saying she did not have “what it takes” to earn his endorsement. Trump has not yet endorsed a candidate in the race, though he has called Eric Greitens “tough” and “smart.”
Still, Hartzler said she’s supported Trump’s policies “more than anybody else in this race,” and she boasted about her other endorsements, including from Sen. Josh Hawley.
On national security
Hartzler said she will address issues she sees with the economy, national security, energy and what she calls a “moral crisis” on her first day in office.
“What we need to do is stop spending money we don't have and get people back to work,” Hartzler said. “Address the supply chain issues by having more truck drivers help with CDL licenses, address the issues at the ports and make things back here in America.”
While all three leading candidates continue to support former President Donald Trump and his policies, Hartzler said her experience in Congress sets her apart.
“Where both the other Erics have pandered to China, I've been sanctioned by them,” Hartzler said. “I'm the person that we need on day one to be in the Senate because I understand the national security threats our nation is facing right now.”
In a press release Thursday, Hartzler said she opposes the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, an $840 billion bill that helps fund the military, and which needs annual Congressional approval.
She said she wouldn’t support the bill because amendments she cosponsored were not debated. Hartzler said her amendments would “protect service members” from a military vaccine mandate.
“It wasn't to totally kill the bill,” Hartzler said of her opposition. “It was to go back and to renegotiate, and to allow us to get some of those amendments that were very popular and that we weren't even allowed to offer.”
On guns and crime
Despite recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas; Highland Park, Illinois; and Philadelphia; and increasing gun violence in Missouri, Hartzler said she won’t support tighter gun regulations. Missouri has the second highest murder rate in the nation, according to the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report.
Hartzler said gun regulations wouldn’t work because “the tool of the killing” is not at fault. She said criminals will always find ways to get guns.
“It is the heart and the person behind it that we have to look at,” said Hartzler. “As a former teacher, I've been really focused on trying to make sure our kids are safe at school, and I've introduced the Police Officers Protecting Children Act.”
The act, which has not been heard by the Senate, would allow certain active and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed guns in school zones.
On abortion and transgender issues
Hartzler also said she supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned constitutionally protected abortion rights established under Roe v. Wade.
On the day of the decision, Attorney General Eric Schmitt certified Missouri’s abortion ban, which prohibits nearly all abortions in the state and does not include exemptions in the case of rape or incest.
“My heart breaks for anybody in that situation,” Hartzler said. “But in that situation, I would say that no child deserves to die because of the sins of their father. That child has a purpose and a plan just like any other baby, and it deserves to live.”
Because of Missouri’s restrictive ban, abortion-rights advocates are urging the governor to call a special session so lawmakers can pass a law protecting the right to an abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy.
Advocates have said Missouri’s abortion ban makes the legality of contraceptives unclear. In June, Saint Luke’s Health System temporarily stopped offering emergency contraceptives like Plan B over fears that health providers could be prosecuted for administering them. Hartzler said there is no need for further clarity on the ban.
“I don't think at this point that's necessary because the legal opinions I've seen (indicate) that ectopic pregnancies would not be considered abortions,” she said. “I think these (concerns) are red herrings being put up by people who support abortion and by Democrats in this election year.”
Early in her campaign, Hartzler aired an ad targeting transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. In the ad, Hartzler accused transgender athletes of ruining girls sports.
The ad made national news for being transphobic, and Hartzler’s Twitter account was suspended for violating the platform’s rules against hateful conduct. Hartzler continues to stand by the ad, and said she does not regret airing it.
“This is common sense,” Hartzler said, citing her six years as a track coach at Belton High School. “Why isn't anybody speaking up for these girls? A biological male should not be allowed to compete on a girl's team.”
Hartzler also said she will work towards bipartisanship when she supports the policies.
“Probably 80% of my votes and other bills are co-sponsored with a Democrat,” Hartzler said. “I'm happy to work in a bipartisan fashion in areas when we have agreement.”
According to analysis from ProPublica, Hartzler votes against the majority of House Republicans only 4% of the time. The average House Republican votes against their own party 7% of the time.