The launch came the same day a leading Republican candidate, former Gov. Eric Greitens, released a campaign video showing him brandishing a shotgun and declaring that he's hunting RINOs, which stands for Republicans in Name Only. The ad's violent imagery drew strong criticism, including from some conservatives, though Greitens contended it was meant to be humorous. Facebook took down the ad.
Former Republican U.S. Sen. John Danforth of suburban St. Louis also has urged Wood to run as a right-leaning independent. Wood once worked for Danforth's staff.
Wood, 52, served as U.S. attorney for Missouri’s Western District from 2007 to 2009 and prior to that held key roles in the George W. Bush administration. He was working as general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when he stepped down in September to become senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee.
Republicans are skeptical of a third-party bid in Missouri, but some acknowledged there is no backup plan if Greitens wins the primary.
Danforth plans to contribute $5 million from his political action committee to advertise in support of a campaign and is seeking to “raise substantially more to build on that donation,” a person familiar with Danforth’s decision told The Associated Press Wednesday. The person was not authorized to speak on behalf of Danforth and confirmed the amount on condition of anonymity.
To get on the November ballot as an independent, Wood would need to submit petitions signed by 10,000 registered voters by Aug. 1.
Twenty-one Republicans are competing in the August primary election. Greitens is considered a frontrunner despite resigning as governor in 2018 in the midst of an investigation into whether he used a compromising photo to blackmail a woman from speaking about their extramarital affair.
Many Republican leaders fear Greitens could win the nomination but lose to a Democrat in November, ceding what should be a safe Republican Senate seat in an election where control of the Senate is on the line.
Other GOP contenders include Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz and St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey. Schatz is positioning himself as a “Reagan Republican.” The others are strong supporters of former President Donald Trump, who has not yet endorsed a candidate in the race.
Leading Democratic contenders include former Marine Lucas Kunce and Trudy Busch Valentine, who is part of the Busch brewery family.
AP journalists Lisa Mascaro in Washington, D.C. and Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.