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Ray Hartmann, founder of Riverfront Times, files for Congress in Missouri’s 2nd District

Ray Hartmann, left, is planning to run for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, right.
(Getty Images)
Ray Hartmann, left, is planning to run for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, right.

Ray Hartmann, one of Missouri’s best known political commentators, will put away his pundit hat and run for office himself as a Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.

Hartmann travelled to Jefferson City Friday to file for the August Democratic primary, hoping to take on incumbent Republican Ann Wagner, who represents the only district in the state decided in 2022 by a margin of less than 12 percentage points.

Hartmann announced his candidacy Thursday on the KETC-TV program Donnybrook, where he has been a regular since January 1987. He also said it would be his last appearance on the program for the foreseeable future.

In an interview Friday with The Independent, Hartmann said he’s running to make abortion rights the foremost issue in the campaign. Abortion has been illegal in Missouri since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion.

“This is the first general election since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and I would most definitely vote, if given the opportunity, to return to restore nationally Roe v. Wade protections for women,” Hartmann said. “And I think it’s fair to say that the Congresswoman would vote in the opposite direction.”

He won’t be a single-issue candidate, Hartmann said. Wagner isn’t doing enough to make sure federal taxes paid by residents of the district returns to fund projects and programs in the district.

“She voted against the infrastructure bill, for example,” Hartmann said. “I will fight for infrastructure and anything else we can to get our fair share of what we pay in the district. I think that will resonate all over the district.”

Except for a brief foray into government in his 20s, Hartmann has been a journalist for his entire career. He was hired as a speechwriter for then-Gov. Kit Bond, a Republican, in 1975 and lost the job when Bond lost his bid for re-election in 1976.

He said he considered himself an independent when he worked for Bond and, as a member of the official staff, took no role in Bond’s campaign.

Hartmann returned to St. Louis and founded the Riverfront Times, a weekly alternative newspaper in St. Louis that he sold in 1998. He remained a regular columnist for the newspaper.

He’s combative and humorous in columns with titles like “MAGA Hate Is Winning in Rockwood Schools” that stated: “These bozos leapfrog from one noxious cause to another.” Another on the appointment of Attorney General Andrew Bailey argued his motto in office should be, “I may be nothing special, but the last two guys were lying insurrectionists.”

In the Riverfront Times article on his entry into the race, Hartmann said he isn’t worried about Wagner’s team scouring the columns for attacks based on what he has written.

“It’s about time somebody read them,” he said.

Wagner, of Ballwin, first won the 2nd District seat in 2012 and won re-election easily in 2014 and 2016. Wagner’s share of the vote fell to 51.2% in 2018 and 51.9% in 2020 before rebounding to 54.9% in 2022 after redistricting added reliably Republican Franklin County and much of Warren County to the district.

Hartmann said he would leave handicapping the race to others and concentrate on identifying and bringing out voters dissatisfied with Wagner.

To get to the general election, Hartmann will have to win a primary against at least one other Democrat. John Kiehne of Pacific, who lost legislative races in 2018, 2020 and 2022, has also filed for the nomination.

Wagner has opposition for renomination, Peter Pfeifer of Town & Country, who received 2.5% of the vote in the 2018 GOP U.S. Senate primary.

A Libertarian, Brandon Daugherty of O’Fallon, is also running.

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