“Missouri voters deserve better than the divisive, extreme choices they are being given by the two major parties in this race,” Wood said in a statement.

“Missouri deserves better. Missouri needs another option,” Wood added. “Missouri is at a crossroads, and my candidacy offers a commonsense alternative to the crazy extremes both parties are offering in this race.”

Independent candidates have typically struggled to gain support, but Wood, who calls himself a “conservative” and “life-long” Republican, could face a unique situation in the red state if former Gov. Eric Greitens wins the GOP Senate nomination.

“I am eager to launch this campaign focused on unifying our state and country rather than the extremist, even violent vision of the likely nominees for both parties,” said Wood in his statement. “I’m in this race to win it and am confident in our path to victory in November.”

Wood also benefits from the support of a powerful ally, former Missouri GOP Sen. John Danforth, who set up a super PAC, Missouri Stands United, to back him. Danforth told CNN that the organization has raised over $5 million and it is “reasonable to hope” that the group will spend over $20 million in the race.

“He is by far the most qualified person in the race,” Danforth said about Wood. “By background, by disposition, by brains, by everything — he’s highly qualified.”

“It’s important to have an independent candidacy because both parties have appealed almost exclusively to people who voted in primaries,” Danforth added. “The result of that is that the center of American politics has been cut out. This is an opportunity to restore the center, and it’s an opportunity to display to the entire country that we have to move away from the extreme polarization, the divisiveness, that characterizes politics today.”

Before joining the House panel, Wood worked as general counsel for the US Chamber of Commerce, US attorney for the Western District of Missouri, and in private practice. He previously served in a number of high-ranking roles in the George W. Bush administration: chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, deputy general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget, and counselor to Attorney General John Ashcroft. He also clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and worked as a staffer for Danforth in the early 1990s.

To qualify for the November 8 ballot, Wood must submit 10,000 signatures to the Missouri secretary of state’s office by August 1.

Besides Greitens, US Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, state Sen. Dave Schatz, and St. Louis lawyer Mark McCloskey are all vying for the Senate GOP nomination. The top Missouri Senate Democratic candidates include US Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, Anheuser-Busch beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine and St. Louis businessman Spencer Toder.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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By MD Abdullah

Abdullah is a former educator, lifelong money nerd, and a Plutus Award-winning freelance writer who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.

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