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story.lead_photo.caption Raleigh Ritter Photo by Submitted photo

Raleigh Ritter, of Seneca, announced over the weekend he intends to seek the Republican nomination for Missouri governor — which would put him in contest with incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Parson, among others.

Ritter said Tuesday that he is a 2001 graduate of Westminster College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business.

He owns and operates Ritter's Five Mile Ranch, where about 100 head of beef cattle graze on the 300 acres of the main property. Ritter added about 150 more heads of cattle are on other properties.

He also co-owns Ritter Rail Inc., which processes railroad rail and ships the scrap metal to foundries.

Ritter said his father developed a machine that cuts up the rails, and though the company still does business in Missouri, its main customer is a nearby foundry in Kansas.

He grew up in his father's business and said he had probably been operating machinery since he was 12 years old, born in the 1970s. Cattle ranching came later after an opportunity to buy the property that had been a horse farm.

Ritter is married and has two children.

His stated political platforms include being anti-abortion, pro-gun ownership and focused on economic growth — "the protection of innocent life, defense of the Second Amendment and increasing Missouri's economy," according to a news release from his campaign.

That sounds similar to the stated views of other Republicans, including Parson, but Ritter said what sets him apart is he means what he says.

He said politicians are "basically giving lip service to the average Republican" to publicly court votes, while holding different views behind closed doors — particularly on gun control.

Ritter did credit the anti-abortion "heartbeat legislation" passed by the Missouri Legislature last year as "definitely a good starting point."

His campaign's announcement of his candidacy also references a "volatile situation and political misrepresentation within the Republican Party in Missouri."

Ritter said what he means by that is "we don't have people in positions that were elected to those positions."

Parson became governor after former-Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in June 2018 amid criminal and legislative investigations into his alleged actions. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe was appointed by Parson to replace the vacancy in the lieutenant governorship left by him replacing Greitens.

After Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley resigned his position to become one of the state's U.S. Senators following his win in the November 2018 election, Parson named then-Treasurer Eric Schmitt to fill that vacancy and then named then-Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick to fill the treasurer's vacant post.

Ritter said he appreciates Parson as a person, but decisions have been made he doesn't agree with.

Specifically, Ritter disagreed with Parson's decision to allow the state to accept refugees for resettlement, after President Donald Trump gave state governments the authority to refuse.

"I personally don't believe we have our own house in order," Ritter said of the existing needs of homeless people, including veterans.

Ritter filed his campaign committee with the Missouri Ethics Commission on Jan. 29.

He said he unsuccessfully ran in 2018 as a Republican for state representative of Missouri's 160th District, which Republican Rep. Ben Baker, of Neosho, won in the August 2018 primary and now holds.

Republican Rep. Jim Neely, of Cameron, has also previously announced his intention to run against Parson.

Though his campaign committee is still active, it's unclear whether or when Greitens might consider becoming politically active again.

Among Democrats, candidates who've announced their intention to run for governor in the primary or at least have active campaign committees to do so include State Auditor Nicole Galloway and Eric Morrison.

Cole County resident Rik Combs is running as a Libertarian candidate.

Filing for statewide offices, including governor, for the Aug. 4 primary opens at 8 a.m. Feb. 25 and closes at 5 p.m. March 31.

This article was edited at 1:45 p.m. Feb. 19, 2020, to correct the end date for candidate filing.

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