Washington (CNN)Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has a challenger in his 2016 re-election bid: Democratic secretary of state Jason Kander.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt gets a challenger
Kander, a 33-year-old Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, narrowly won his office in 2012, becoming the youngest statewide elected official in the United States. His entrance could help Democrats put another state in play in what's expected to be a friendly map for them -- just two years after the party was punished by Republicans who won nearly every competitive race and took majority control of the Senate.
Still, Kander enters the race as an underdog in a state where Republicans have shown increasing strength in recent years -- and where a high-profile Democrat, Gov. Jay Nixon, has suffered popularity blows because of his handling of the Ferguson police shooting and the protests that followed.
Kander announced his candidacy in a video posted online Thursday morning. In it, he portrayed Blunt -- a former Missouri secretary of state himself who was elected to the House in 1996 and to his first term in the Senate in 2010, and whose son, Matt Blunt, was Missouri's governor -- as part of Washington's problems.
"Missouri has a senator who's been in Washington for nearly 20 years, and who's been running for one political office or another for over 40 years," he said in the video. "For too long, he's been a part of the problem, voting to shut down the Senate, block economic progress and block good ideas just because they come from someone in the other party. We can't change Washington if we don't change the people we send there."
Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin hit Kander in a statement released shortly after he entered the race, calling the Democrat "a dyed-in-the-wool liberal in lock-step with the failing Obama agenda."
He compared her to Missouri's other senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill, and called him a political opportunist.
"Missouri families and workers cannot afford another vote in support of Obamacare and the rest of the liberals' failed big government agenda," Martin said.
"Just two years into statewide office, Kander has tried doing everyone's job but his own and can't wait to get to Washington to continue the decline the Obama agenda has started," Martin said.