HANNIBAL, Mo. — U.S Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., made a stop in America’s Hometown Tuesday evening as he continues his drive to claim the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt.

Long, who replaced Blunt in 2011 as the representative for Missouri’s 7th Congressional District when Blunt moved to the Senate, said that he’s not a politician, and that makes him different from others running for the Republican nomination.

“I was 55 years old when I was sworn in to my first ever elected position in Congress,” Long told his audience in Hannibal. “If anyone tells you I’m a life-long politician, tell them to go look it up and see if that meets the definition.”

After a 30-plus year career as an auctioneer and real estate broker and six years as a morning radio host, Long said he considered running for Congress in 1996.

“My daughters were 10 and 11, and I didn’t want to be a weekend father, so I thought about it for 15 minutes and then decided not to do it,” he said. “When Roy Blunt said he was going to run for the Senate, my daughters were older then, so I stood there in the living room and said ‘I’m in.’”

Long announced his candidacy on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program last week, where he also announced that former presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway was taking on a role with his campaign.

With a sense of humor and a touch of self-deprecation, Long talked about nearly losing his first campaign because he couldn’t get time on any TV programs.

“Last week I was on Tucker Carlson. That’s my third TV appearance in 11 years,” Long said. “In my first campaign, I was told, ‘Oh, you’re too fat. We can’t put you on TV.’ They told me, ‘Oh, you can’t wear a cowboy hat. Congressmen don’t wear cowboy hats.’ This time, I said, ‘I’m doing it my way.’”

Long gestured to his campaign bus emblazoned with his face and name.

“I tell people if you were on the Trump Train, now it’s time to get on the Billy Bus,” he said.

The grassroots approach is intended to set Long apart from his competitors.

“I like to say I run my campaigns 3 feet at a time,” he said. “Right now, I’m covering 114 counties, plus getting into St. Louis. These other guys are operating at 30,000 feet. They do it all on TV and with ads telling you how terrible their opponents are.

“I don’t do a lot of fundraising,” Long admitted. “I do what I call friend-raising. I do a lot of small events, and people like having a congressman come and visit, talk to them, tell them what D.C. is really like.”

If elected, Long said his top priorities will be to close the southern border as part of a plan to increase security for all Americans.

“They put (Vice-President) Kamala Harris in charge of the stuff at the border, and she went and visited El Paso, where they don’t really have too many issues. But she didn’t go where I went, where there are people literally coming out of the underbrush at night. They walk in, they get told to come back in 18 months or whatever for a hearing, and they let them go.”

Long said funding the police and protecting the rights of people to protect themselves will also be on his to-do list.

“In Springfield (Mo.) it’s getting out of control, in St. Louis, the murder rate is climbing,” Long said. “Drug dealers have free rein to do what they want.”

“Even in D.C., you can’t carry a gun in the city limits. So what happens is you’re sitting at a restaurant having dinner with your wife and you’re killed by a stray shot, like what recently happened to a guy there. I have a friend who showed me pictures of his torn-up knees. He said when the shooting started, he dropped to his knees and crawled away. That’s what the Second Amendment means to a lot of people in Washington; everyone has the right to a pair of knees to escape.”

Long faces a crowded field for next year’s Republican primary. His congressional colleague U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler from Missouri’s 4th Congressional District covering central and western Missouri has also announced she wants to take Blunt’s seat. St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Gov. Eric Greitens also have declared their intentions in the race.

“I’m a low-key guy,” Long said. “I’ve got a gift for gab, I can make a story out of any subject. But I don’t make a clown out of myself.

“I want people to know that, if I’m elected to the Senate, I’ll work hard for them. Constituent service is the top item in my office. I’ve helped folks that came back later and said they were Democrats and that I hadn’t won them over yet, but they were leaning my way. That’s fine, because I don’t check party affiliation when they come through my door.”

The Missouri primary will be on Aug. 2, 2022, and the respective winners will face off in the general election on Nov. 8, 2022.

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