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O’FALLON, Mo. — The field of potential candidates seeking to replace Sen. Roy Blunt narrowed Monday when Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced he will not seek the Republican nomination in 2022 but will instead run for governor in 2024.

While Kehoe has been “honored by the encouragement and offers of support for me to serve as Missouri’s next U.S. Senator, my true calling remains to work on behalf of Missourians in Missouri as Lieutenant Governor and as a candidate for Governor in 2024,” Kehoe said in a written statement provided to The Associated Press.

Blunt announced March 8 that he will not seek a third term next year. Kehoe’s name has often come up as a possible Republican candidate, along with Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and former Gov. Eric Greitens. Several GOP members of Congress also have been mentioned, including Jason Smith, Ann Wagner and Billy Long.

But already, two of the top Republican contenders have said they won’t run. In addition to Kehoe, Ashcroft on March 10 took himself out of the running.

FILE – In this June 18, 2018, file photo, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe makes his opening statement during a news conference in the governor’s office at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. Mo. Republican Lt. Gov. Kehoe said Monday, March 22, 2021, that he will not seek the Republican nomination in 2022 but will instead run for governor in 2024. (Emil Lippe/The Jefferson City News-Tribune via AP, File)

At least three Democrats have announced Senate bids: former state Sen. Scott Sifton, activist Timothy Shepard and Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran who works for an organization that fights corporate monopolies.

Two of Missouri’s best-known Democrats, former Sen. Claire McCaskill and 2016 Senate candidate Jason Kander, have said they won’t run in 2022.

Kehoe, 59, was elected to the Missouri Senate in 2010 and again in 2014. When Greitens resigned as governor amid criminal and ethics investigations in June 2018, then-Lt. Gov. Mike Parson became governor and appointed Kehoe as lieutenant governor.

Kehoe easily defeated Democrat Alissia Canady in the November 2020 election.