Vice President Mike Pence reached out to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley about the possibility of running for U.S. Senate in 2018, Hawley’s spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Hawley has been a top pick to challenge U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent, by several prominent Missouri Republicans, including former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth. Hawley has been coy about his plans, but his spokesman confirmed that he received a phone call from Pence last weekend.
“Josh spoke to Vice President Pence this weekend and has been getting a great deal of encouragement to run. He is giving the race serious consideration,” Hawley’s spokesman, Scott Paradise, said in an email. “Josh has also received calls from others (candidates) interested in running and he is letting them know of his decision to consider the race.”
Pence’s office did not immediately comment on the phone call Tuesday. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP’s main national campaign committee for Senate races, also did not comment on Pence’s interest in the Missouri race.
Danforth and former Ambassador Sam Fox have led a very public campaign to recruit Hawley and dissuade GOP donors from backing other candidates while the first-term attorney general weighs his decision. Danforth lauded Hawley as a “once-in-a-generation” candidate earlier this month.
The senior member of Missouri’s congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, sidestepped the Pence phone call when greeted in the halls of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday.
“I have no public opinions on that,” said Blunt, a member of Republican leadership in the Senate.
Two candidates have already entered the race on the Republican side, Tony Monetti, a retired Air Force pilot, and Austin Petersen, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination last year.
Several other prominent Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt, have also been floated as possible candidates after U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, who had been the presumed frontrunner, announced last week she would not seek the Senate seat.
McCaskill’s campaign criticized Hawley for taking input from Pence on whether he should run.
“For a guy who promised Missourians he wasn’t just a ladder-climbing politician, he sure is taking a lot of advice from Washington, DC politicians on how to quickly climb that ladder,” said John Labombard, McCaskill’s spokesman, in a text message.
McCaskill has more than $5 million in her campaign coffers after raising a record $3.1 million in the last three months.