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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this July 14, 2018, file photo, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, center, appears during a convention of state secretaries of state in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Wednesday said he won't run for the U.S. Senate, despite being eyed early on as a top candidate for Republican Sen. Roy Blunt's seat.

Ashcroft, who has considerable name recognition in Missouri courtesy of his father, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, said in a statement he and his wife are "deeply grateful for the overwhelming support" for a potential Senate run.

"After intense, prayerful consideration we have decided to remain devoted to the work Missouri voters have entrusted me as secretary of state," he said.

Ashcroft said he hopes "those who pledged to support me will devote their efforts to electing the eventual Republican nominee."

Blunt's decision this week to not run for reelection opened the door for a number of ambitious Republicans interested in making a Senate bid.

Republicans who have said they're interested include Republican former Gov. Eric Greitens. He resigned in 2018 amid fallout from a sex scandal and ethics investigation.

Other potential Republican contenders include U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner and Jason Smith, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe.

Without a frontrunner like Ashcroft, a contentious primary for the GOP nomination is more likely.

"Jay Ashcroft could have, had he gotten in and had he put an effective campaign together quickly, precluded the odds of having a contentious primary," said longtime Missouri Republican political operative John Hancock.

At least three Democrats have announced plans to run for Blunt's seat so far: former state Sen. Scott Sifton, activist Timothy Shepard and Lucas Kunce. Kunce is a Marine veteran and works for an organization that fights corporate monopolies.



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