by Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent
U.S. Rep. Billy Long is accusing Sen. Josh Hawley of lying to his face about whether or not he was set to endorse in Missouri’s GOP Senate primary.
During a Tuesday morning interview with KCMO’s Pete Mundo, Long said he spoke with Hawley in August and again last Wednesday about whether he had plans to endorse U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
Long said he assumed the endorsement was inevitable after Hartzler hired the same political consulting firm that ran Hawley’s campaigns for attorney general in 2016 and Senate in 2018.
“I’m sitting three feet from him, looking at me in the eye, and I said, ‘You know, it looks to me like you’re getting pretty close to endorsing Hartzler.’” Long told Mundo about his meeting with Hawley last week.
Long said Hawley responded: “Oh, no, no, I’m not anywhere near close to endorsing Hartzler.”
On Saturday, Hawley formally endorsed Hartzler at Lincoln Days in St. Charles.
“I want people to be honest with me,” Long said Tuesday. “I would rather Josh have looked at me and said, ‘Billy, look, you know, your fundraising, you don’t have the money coming in, you’re down in the polls and we need to find somebody who can beat (Eric) Greitens and, you know, yeah, I’m probably getting pretty close to endorsing Hartzler.’
“I’d rather, you know, be honest with me,” Long continued, “don’t let me know, less than 72 hours before you announce your endorsement and tell me it’s not close.”
Long went on to imply that Hawley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been conspiring to consolidate support behind one candidate who can take down former Gov. Eric Greitens, who is considered the race’s frontrunner despite being forced to resign in 2018 to avoid impeachment and to settle felony charges.
“Everyone’s goal in D.C. and the swamp is to pick one person that can, you know, beat Eric Greitens,” Long said.
A spokesman for Hawley’s campaign declined to comment on Long’s interview, but noted that Hawley made his final decision to endorse Hartzler a day before making it public.
Long announced last August that he would forgo running for another term in Congress representing southwest Missouri to run for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.
Public polling of the six-way primary has consistently showed Long in single digits, with Hartzler, Schmitt and Greitens leading the pack.
Like every candidate seeking the GOP nomination, Long has publicly courted former President Donald Trump’s support. Long was an early and outspoken supporter of the former president, and has made it no secret that he hopes his relationship with Trump can help him score an endorsement.
He reiterated that during his Tuesday interview with Mundo.
“I’m close with Trump,” he said. “I would love to have had his endorsement months ago. I don’t know if he’ll ever endorse.”