WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jason Kander, the Missouri secretary of state, announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Kander, 33, is Jewish and a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan. He positioned himself as a Washington outsider in a video Thursday launching his campaign.
“We can’t change Washington if we don’t change the people we send there,” Kander said, a reference to Blunt’s congressional career, launched in 1997. Blunt rose to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2000s and was elected to the Senate in 2010. Blunt had Kander’s current job from 1985 to 1993.
Republicans responded by attacking Kander’s liberalism in a state that has voted increasingly conservative. “He’s a dyed-in-the-wool Washington liberal,” Missouri GOP Executive Director Matt Wills told Politico.
In his video, Kander alluded to recent racial tensions in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and allegations that Republicans are backing restrictions that make it harder for minorities to vote. He said that, as secretary of state, he has worked “to help businesses rebuild and stay in Ferguson and to ensure that every citizen can vote.”
Getting out the minority vote would be key to a Democratic win in the state.
Kander, a Kansas City native who is the son of a policeman and a probation officer, said he was drawn to public service by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“After the planes hit the towers, I knew I had to do something and it led me to enlist,” he says in the video.
Kander is highly likely to win the nomination, having already garnered the backing of much of the party’s establishment in Missouri.
The National Jewish Democratic Council welcomed his bid.
“We look forward to working with Sec. Kander and his wife Diana in the weeks and months to come as we push towards returning the Senate to Democratic control in 2016,” it said in a statement.