Instead of challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. Ann Wagner is opting to defend her suburban St. Louis U.S. House seat.

Top Republican recruit U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri on Monday said she’s not running for Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s seat in 2018, leaving the GOP field open for a potentially vulnerable seat.

Wagner said in a statement that she’s instead opting to defend her suburban St. Louis U.S. House seat.

“While I am grateful for the incredible support and encouragement I have received from across Missouri to run for United States Senate, I am announcing today my intention to run for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018,” Wagner said, adding that “there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.”

Wagner’s announcement creates a vacuum for Republicans hoping to win a U.S. Senate race that’s already drawing national interest. McCaskill is among 10 Senate Democrats running in 2018 in states won by President Donald Trump.

Wagner’s decision also could open the door for Republican political newcomer Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to challenge McCaskill.

Former Sen. John Danforth was among several high-profile Republicans who previously encouraged Hawley to run.

Hawley is a first-time elected official and still has a small window of time to capitalize on his relative outsider status, a quality that Trump touted heavily during his presidential campaign.


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