- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Democratic Party scored a big recruit in its bid to retake control of the U.S. Senate in 2016 when Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander announced Thursday that he will challenge first-term GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.

After a disastrous 2014 midterm election in which they lost nine Senate seats, Democrats are intent on playing electoral offense in 2016 — and recruiting top-tier candidates is the first test.

The 33-year-old Mr. Kander, a former Army captain who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan and was elected to his current post in 2012, said in an announcement video that he believes it’s time for a “new generation” of leaders.

“Missouri has a senator who’s been in Washington for nearly 20 years and who’s been running for one political office or another for over 40 years,” he said. “We can’t change Washington if we don’t change the people we send there.”

A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans’ campaign arm responded by saying Mr. Kander, who’s only partly through his first term as secretary of state, seems too eager to get to Washington.

“Kander is your typical, overly ambitious politician who refuses to tell you that he’s a Democrat who supports Obamacare or that his legislative record as a tax-and-spend liberal aligns perfectly with President Obama and Governor [Jay] Nixon’s agenda,” said Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democrats hope Mr. Kander can win in a state where the GOP dominates the congressional delegation, and which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000. But the state does have Democrats in statewide office, including Mr. Kander, Mr. Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill, who survived a tough re-election in 2012.

“Jason’s experience serving his country in Afghanistan and as a U.S. Army captain, and his time in the General Assembly and secretary of state’s office, leaves him well equipped to fight for Missouri’s middle class against Washington, D.C.’s powerful special interests,” said Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

For his part, Mr. Blunt, a former congressman and Missouri secretary of state, won his 2010 race by double digits. But he is one of two dozen Republican senators up for re-election in 2016, and, like some others, entered office in a historically good year for Republicans and now faces a first re-election test.

Other Democrats contemplating Senate runs in 2016 include former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who lost to Gov. John Kasich in 2010 and who could challenge GOP Sen. Rob Portman; and Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a double amputee war veteran who is considering a run against GOP Sen. Mark Kirk.

But Mr. Kander’s announcement gives his party a banked early recruit on the favorable map, where Democrats are defending just 10 seats, most of them in solidly blue states.

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