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During last year's campaign, Roy Blunt had no interest in country club. Now he does

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Abigail and Roy Blunt at candidate party

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt arrives with his wife, Abigail Blunt, at St. Louis County executive candidate Rick Stream's election party on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at the Hilton in Frontenac. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

WASHINGTON • Days before the 2016 election, Missouri Democrats tried to make an issue of a report that Sen. Roy Blunt’s wife, lobbyist Abigail Blunt, was trying to join a tony suburban Washington, D.C., country club.

Allies of Blunt’s opponent, Jason Kander, said it was an example of Blunt’s distance from Missourians. Blunt’s campaign spokeswoman said in October that the senator “had never applied to be a member of a country club and has no plans to join one.”

But now Blunt and his wife are listed as “candidates enjoying summer privileges” at that very club — the Chevy Chase Club. The country club is one of the capital region’s oldest, where Politico last year reported that membership begins with $80,000 up front, plus $600 in monthly fees.

A person familiar with the membership process at the club said the “candidates enjoying summer privileges” list is an early step of a multiyear vetting to fully join the club, and that people who make the list generally become members unless other things, such as financial hardship, intervene.

The Blunts are among 54 couples or individuals on the list in the club’s summer newsletter.

Blunt’s office refused to comment Friday.

A spokesman at the Chevy Chase Club said it would not comment on any potential members nor describe what the “candidates enjoying summer privileges” list meant.

After the flap and the denial late in last year’s campaign, Blunt went on to defeat Kander for re-election in one of the most-watched Senate races of 2016.

That political tempest began with a post in Politico that Abigail Blunt, a top lobbyist for Kraft Foods, was trying to join Chevy Chase.

Politico said that “Sen. Roy Blunt is fighting for his political life in Missouri, where his opponent has accused him of working on behalf of special interests and having deep ties to D.C. But Blunt’s wife, Abigail Blunt, is trying to become a member of the prestigious Chevy Chase Club, a tony Washington country club that costs tens of thousands of dollars to join.”

Democrats pounced. During the campaign they tried to portray Blunt as a Washington insider with a lobbyist wife who was more interested in D.C. than in his home state.

Kander had been trying to project himself as a fresh face who wouldn’t be lured into Washington’s power trappings.

A Kander spokesman tweeted then that “the everyday hubris displayed by @RoyBluntMO is incredible to watch.”

But the story quickly faded with the Blunt denial to the Post-Dispatch. He defeated Kander by 3.2 percentage points 11 days later.

The 90-year-old private Chevy Chase Club describes itself as “steeped in history and rooted in old-time service” on its website.

It says that “the classic, Tudor-style clubhouse harkens back to an era when making guests feel welcome was an art form.”

“From the moment you arrive, we encourage you to indulge in the historic surroundings,” it goes on. “Your comfort is assured in an atmosphere where respect is understood and your name is remembered. Our full-service facility offers a remarkable and stylish atmosphere in a clubhouse setting. The Grand Ballroom offers available seating space for up to 500 guests.”

To get on the “candidates enjoying summer privileges” list, a couple must have had at least two sponsors and go through other vetting by club officers, according to a person familiar with the process.

Prospective members can be on the candidates’ list for several summers. The overall membership process — which includes letters of support from more than a dozen club members — can take two or three years and require thousands of dollars of membership fees up front.

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Chuck Raasch is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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