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It didn’t take long after Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler announced her candidacy for the open U.S. Senate seat for Republicans to launch their own campaigns to replace her.

Missouri’s 4th congressional district — as it stands now — is a large and diverse expanse of the state, from Columbia sweeping west to just below Kansas City, stretching down to Pittsburg and Lebanon, and settling north of Springfield. It includes both Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County and Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County.

A social conservative, Hartzler was the second Republican woman elected to Congress from Missouri and assumed office in 2011.

Thus far, a handful of Republicans have launched campaigns to replace Hartzler in Congress. Despite speculation, Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden opted out of a bid for the seat. Here’s a look at who they are in alphabetical order. (This story will be updated.)

Mark Alford

Longtime Kansas City news anchor Mark Alford announced his congressional campaign on a talk radio show on Oct. 27, 2021. Alford worked for Fox 4 for 23 years as an anchor before departing a few weeks ahead of his campaign launch.

“Each district is due the strongest voice they can elect who represents their will and their beliefs. I am that strongest voice for the 4th congressional district of the state of Missouri,” Alford said on his campaign website.

In a video posted to his Facebook page, Alford said “it has not been easy being in the media while also being a conservative Christian who respects law enforcement and wants to promote local entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

Rick Brattin

Sen. Rick Brattin, a member of the Conservative Caucus, launched a bid for the 4th congressional district on Nov. 15, 2021 from Columbia. He castigated Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C., in his announcement.

“I truly fear that if they are not stopped, our children and grandchildren will not have the same freedom to pursue the American Dream that we have enjoyed,” Brattin said.

Brattin was elected to represent SD 31, which encompasses Barton, Bates, Cass, Henry, and Vernon counties, in 2020 after a tight primary. He served four terms in the lower chamber where he also served as majority floor whip and chair of the Special Committee on Government Oversight.

Kalena Bruce

Kalena Bruce, a cattle farmer from Stockton, launched her candidacy for Missouri’s 4th congressional district on Aug. 18, 2021, billing herself as a “conservative outsider.”

Aside from managing the family farm, Bruce is a CPA who owns and operates an accounting firm in Bolivar where she focuses on small businesses and federal tax law. She touted her agriculture expertise and ties to former President Donald Trump in her announcement with a promise to “clean up Congress.”

“Sending a career politician to Congress to clean up the messes caused by career politicians is like asking a cow to clean up its own mess,” Bruce said. “As a product of rural Missouri, I’ll never stop fighting for our rural way of life.”

Taylor Burks

A lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, Taylor Burks filed with the FEC to run for the seat on July 1, 2021 and has a campaign launch planned for later in the month at a popular pizza joint in Columbia. He said he will draw on “his record outside of politics” during his campaign. Burks also plans to publicly pledge to serve no more than 10 years in the U.S. House.

“Missourians in the 4th congressional district are ready for policies that protect their liberties, their wallets, and their elections, not the socialist welfare that Democrats are peddling,” said Burks.

Burks is a former Boone County clerk — appointed by former Gov. Eric Greitens and the first Republican to serve in that position — who has led the Divison of Labor Standards (under the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations) since January 2018. He grew up in the Ozarks and was raised on his family’s farm before serving three combat deployments with the U.S. Navy.

Bill Irwin

Bill Irwin, a retired Navy SEAL captain and former Lee’s Summit police officer, officially launched a bid for CD 4 on Jan. 10, 2022.

“There is a war being waged on our way of life. A full-fledged assault on the liberties which made our country great,” Irwin said in his announcement. “It is a daily attack being fought across the country, from the halls of Congress to the halls of our schools and into our homes.”

A Cass County resident, Irwin served in the Navy for more than 33 years, retiring as a Navy SEAL captain. He also spent nearly two decades as a law enforcement officer in Lee’s Summit and has worked at various U.S. embassies and the State Department.

Kyle LaBrue

An entrepreneur, builder, and investor from Camden County, Kyle LaBrue is among the Republicans vying for Congress in CD 4. Following school, LaBrue completed a few years of missionary work. He was an Eagle Scout growing up.

Sara Walsh

State Rep. Sara Walsh kicked off her candidacy to succeed Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler on July 7, 2021. She has served HD 50 in the legislature — which encompasses parts of Boone, Cole, Cooper, and Moniteau counties — since 2017.

“My life is proof that in America anything is possible. But the American dream is under attack by socialists and career politicians in Washington, D.C.,” Walsh said. “I’m running for Congress to defend the American dream and to ensure our kids and grandkids have the same opportunities we had.”

Walsh is the chair of the Consent and House Procedure Committee as well as the Subcommittee on Appropriations – Public Safety, Corrections, Transportation and Revenue. Prior to her time in the General Assembly, Walsh served as a Member Services Coordinator for the Missouri Pharmacy Association, a staff auditor in the Auditor’s Office, and the Program and Outreach Manager for the National Newspaper Association, among other things.

Former contenders

Former state Sen. Ed Emery was the first out of the gate to announce his candidacy for the seat in mid-June. Emery died on Aug. 6 at the age of 71. He had been speaking at a campaign event when he suddenly collapsed and was hospitalized for several days.

“It is not ambition that drives me, but what I see as the clear abandonment at the federal level of Biblical principles, national heritage, common sense, and the values that have made America great,” Emery said. “The contempt for the truth and the perversion of justice must not go on.”

Associate Cass County commissioner Ryan Johnson ended his congressional bid on Sept. 24, saying he wished to spend more time with his family.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on July 7.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.

Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.

She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.

Contact Kaitlyn at kaitlyn@themissouritimes.com.

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