Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls Sarah Steelman and Ed Martin courted party stalwarts at a weekend get-together here, but it was the undeclared potential candidate, Ann Wagner, who launched the harshest attack on the Democratic incumbent.
Wagner called Sen. Claire McCaskill “chameleon Claire,” accusing her of changing her colors to appear more conservative when she is in Missouri than when she is in Washington.
“We need to make Claire McCaskill a one-term senator,” declared Wagner, the former Missouri Republican Party chairwoman who served as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg under President George W. Bush.
Wagner made her remarks Saturday to the Republican State Committee at the annual Lincoln Days gathering. The committee also heard from Steelman and Martin, who have announced they will seek the GOP nomination to challenge McCaskill in 2012.
Wagner, of Ballwin, said afterward that she was leaning toward getting into the race and will decide “in weeks, not months.” Both Martin and Steelman said they were running for sure, no matter who joins the field.
“I don’t see anybody that’s better at retail politicking and raising the money,” said Martin, a lawyer from St. Louis who narrowly lost a congressional race to Rep. Russ Carnahan last year.
Steelman, a former state treasurer and state senator from Rolla, said she is “absolutely not” considering shifting to another statewide race if the Senate contest gets crowded.
“I’m just focused on the ideological differences between me and Sen. McCaskill,” Steelman said.
Both Steelman and Martin hosted hospitality suites at the University Plaza hotel and Convention Center, where more than 800 Republicans converged for a weekend of socializing and speeches.
Martin, whose congressional bid last year enjoyed strong Tea Party support, emphasized his conservative credentials. He said if elected he would work for limited government and reduced spending.
Steelman used her speech to the state committee to tout her support for a bill that would make Missouri a “right-to-work” state, which means that union fees could not be required as a condition of employment.
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