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story.lead_photo.caption State Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, launched her campaign for U.S. Congress on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Photo by Jonathan Jain/News Tribune

State Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, launched her campaign for U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Surrounded by supporters at Target Masters, a gun store in Columbia, Walsh announced her bid for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Walsh said she is running to defend the "American dream," which she believes is in danger.

"It's under attack by radicals who are trying to indoctrinate students with destructive, anti-American ideas that divide us along racial lines," Walsh said. "It's under attack by socialists who believe that hard work should be taxed and idleness rewarded. It's under attack by liberals who want to erase our borders. It's under attack by Democrats who want to defund our police and our military This is not the America I grew up in; it's not the America you grew up in. It doesn't have to be this way."

Walsh's campaign website launched a few hours before the announcement. It lists her priorities, which include supporting law enforcement, defunding Planned Parenthood, completing the border wall, opposing critical race theory, and standing against the Waters of the U.S. rule and proposed estate tax.

Walsh talked about her modest upbringing in Mid-Missouri, with her family living paycheck to paycheck. She said it instilled the values that guide her today and showed her that faith, family and perseverance were essential.

"Throughout my entire life, I have never backed down from a challenge, never given up, never taken 'no' for an answer," Walsh said. "I love this country, and I love its people. I want our kids and our grandkids to look back on this moment and say, 'They didn't just defend the American dream; they saved it.'"

Walsh was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2017 after defeating Democrat Michela Skelton by 302 votes in a special election. She served in House leadership as the majority caucus chair during the 2021 legislative session.

"As a kid living in a mice-infested rental house at the end of the gravel road, as a teenager wearing hand-me-down Pittsburgh Steelers clothing from my cousins in Pennsylvania, as a laid-off factory worker, I never could have imagined somebody like me walking the marbled hallways of the Missouri Capitol defending the unborn, defending our brave men and women in law enforcement, defending our Second Amendment rights, and cutting our taxes," Walsh said. "Yet there I was. That kind of story is only possible in America."

Walsh sponsored legislation that created Missouri's "Back the Blue" license plates, and her other achievements include securing $1.5 million in funding for technical education in Mid-Missouri and working to make Missouri one of the most anti-abortion states in the country.

Hartzler is giving up her seat to run for the U.S. Senate, which she announced at a gun store in June. Walsh praised her service in Congress and wished her luck in her U.S. Senate campaign. Walsh volunteered for Hartzler's first congressional campaign; and Walsh's husband, Steve, is Hartzler's press secretary.

Former state Sen. Ed Emery, Cass County Commissioner Ryan Johnson and U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Commander Taylor Burks are the other announced candidates for the congressional seat. Shortly after Walsh's announcement, state Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, tweeted that he is "seriously considering a run for Congress." The filing period for candidates is from Feb. 22 to March 29, 2022.

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