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Missouri effort to draft independent candidate for U.S. Senate focusing on former U.S. prosecutor

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JEFFERSON CITY — A former federal prosecutor currently serving as a top attorney on the congressional panel probing the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is being urged to run for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat as an independent.

On Monday, a committee launched a website to encourage John F. Wood to run as an alternative choice for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

The next step is for the group to file with the Federal Election Commission in order to begin raising money. As a candidate not affiliated with a party, Wood also would have to collect signatures to get on the November ballot.

Although he is not directly involved in this committee, former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth is pushing for an independent candidate in order to “provide Missouri voters a principled, traditional conservative choice for the United States Senate this year.”

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Wood, 52, worked on Danforth’s staff. He also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for Judge J. Michael Luttig, who recently testified before the Jan. 6 commission.  

“Respected leaders across the state of Missouri have made it clear that Missouri voters deserve an alternative option to the leading contenders for the Republican and Democratic nominations for U.S. Senate,” a news release notes about the committee's formation. “We are encouraging John to answer that call, as he has done countless times over the course of his career in government.”

In February, Danforth, 85, predicted a center-right independent candidate would file to run for U.S. Senate in Missouri.

He based his prediction on the results of a poll suggesting an independent candidate — one who promotes a message of unity instead of division — would have a strong chance of winning the general election.

Danforth, a Ladue Republican who represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate from 1976 to 1995, predicted an independent candidate wouldn’t get lost in the mix, as others have in past elections. He also said he would be interested in financially supporting the right person’s bid.

The formation of the campaign committee came on a day when the focus of the Senate race was a video released by former Gov. Eric Greitens showing him and a team of soldiers violently entering a house in search of what Greitens calls “Republicans in name only,” or RINOs.

The video drew heavy criticism from others in the race on both sides of the aisle and was taken down by Facebook and flagged by Twitter.

Along with Greitens, other Republicans in the race include U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long; Attorney General Eric Schmitt; Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan; and St. Louis lawyer Mark McCloskey.

Democrats include Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, the top fundraiser who describes himself as a populist, and political novice Trudy Busch Valentine, an heir to the Busch beer family. Spencer Toder, Jewel Kelly, Tim Shepard and Gena Ross are also running.

In a news release, Wood is described as a sixth-generation Missourian who was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri from 2007 to 2009 under former President George W. Bush.

He took over after his cousin, then-U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, allegedly helped force out then-U.S. Attorney Todd Graves from the job in 2005. Graves, a former Missouri Republican Party chairman and ardent support of Greitens during his abbreviated, scandal-plagued tenure, is the brother of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio.

Wood previously served as chief of staff to George W. Bush-era Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, deputy associate general counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft and in the White House under Bush at the Office of Management and Budget.

“John has exemplified the principle of putting ‘country over party’ through his central role investigating the attack on the US Capitol for the House Select Committee,” the news release notes. “Over the coming days, we will work to draft John Wood into this race to provide Missourians that choice they deserve.”

Wood was brought to the Jan. 6 committee by the Republican co-chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. A lifelong Republican, Wood reports to Cheney and also the committee’s chief counsel, Tim Heaphy, a Democrat who is also a former U.S. attorney.

In a joint statement about his hiring, Democrat Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Tennessee and Cheney said Wood’s addition underscores the nature of the panel.

“Mr. Wood has an impressive track record working inside and outside of government, and his expertise will enhance our efforts to investigate the events surrounding January 6th and understand what led to the attack against the U.S. Capitol that day,” they wrote.

Before joining the committee, Wood most recently worked as general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Wood could not be reached for comment.

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