- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

ARNOLD, Mo. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt officially began his re-election campaign Friday with a call to reduce regulations and let American companies “start making things again.”

Blunt, 66, spoke at Unico-SGI manufacturing plant in the St. Louis suburb of Arnold. It was the first of a three-day, 10-stop tour across the state. The Republican is seeking his second term in the Senate after serving in the House from 1997 to 2011, representing southwest Missouri.

Though he had been fundraising and building toward his campaign for months, Blunt waited to formally announce his re-election bid until a few days before Missouri’s official candidacy filing period opens next Tuesday. His likely opponent in the November general election is Democratic Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, though other Republicans and Democrats could join in the August primary.

During his speech at the plant, Blunt cited his successful effort to co-sponsor, with his Democratic colleague from Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill, regulation-reducing legislation that helped businesses like Unico thrive.

“We need to get back to a situation where we have good jobs, where working families can not only survive but improve and advance,” Blunt said.

“It’s really time for Americans to start making things again,” Blunt added, expressing confidence that America’s “better days are ahead of us.”

Blunt was critical of President Barack Obama, focusing especially on the health care overhaul pushed through by the Democratic president’s administration.

“Clearly the health care system wasn’t perfect before Obamacare, but there were better solutions that worked in the real world,” Blunt said.

Blunt is among several GOP senators who say they will vote against any U.S. Supreme Court nomination offered up by Obama. He said the American people, through their presidential vote in November, should have a say on the replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who was found dead last Saturday.

Blunt planned additional campaign stops Friday, Saturday and Monday in Kansas City, St. Joseph, La Plata, Hannibal, Joplin, Springfield, Columbia, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau.

Kander’s campaign manager, Abe Rakov, said Washington won’t change “if we keep electing the same career politicians.” He said Kander “represents a new generation of leadership who will put service to country ahead of partisan politics.”

Blunt was a 23-year-old high school history teacher when he was appointed as Greene County clerk by the governor. He went on to serve 12 years in the post, then twice won election as Missouri secretary of state.

After losing a Republican primary for governor in 1992, Blunt served as president of Southwest Baptist University. He made a political comeback by winning election to Congress in 1996, and quickly rose through Republican leadership ranks to become the House whip.

He temporarily served as House majority leader after Tom Delay stepped down in 2006, but Blunt ultimately lost the majority leader’s election to Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.

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