“Some people are afraid to talk about it. Not me,” Hartzler said in the 30-second spot, explaining that she “won’t look away while woke liberals destroy women’s sports.”
“Women’s sports are for women, not men pretending to be women,” she said.
Thomas has been at the center of controversy in recent months as the NCAA has grappled over regulations for transgender students, generating outcry from college athletes on both sides of the issue.
Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate race — another fiercely competitive election for a retiring GOP seat — have so far avoided making the home-state culture war issue a topic of their $32 million in campaign advertisements.
Hartzler, who consistently wears hot pink spots in her campaign, is the only woman in Missouri’s crowded Republican primary. The six-term House member has emphasized her history as a steady, noncontroversial conservative woman in Missouri politics—a foil to male politicians in the state who have proved problematic for the Republican Party in recent years.
One of her primary election opponents, former Gov. Eric Greitens, resigned from his position mid-term in 2018 after facing allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman. The party lost a winnable Senate seat in 2012, the year its nominee, former Rep. Todd Akin, drew heat for making remarks about “legitimate rape.”
The seat is believed to be safely Republican this cycle, though top Senate GOP leaders have hinted they believe a Greitens nomination could threaten the party’s hold on the seat.
Greitens has consistently polled in first place in the 2022 primary, followed closely behind by state Attorney General Eric Schmitt. But Hartzler over the weekend received the endorsement of GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who had remained so far neutral.
Hawley’s political consultants last month released polling showing that his endorsement would likely have an impact on the primary: Fifty-four percent of voters said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who had his backing.
In Missouri, Democrat Lucas Kunce — who has led all candidates on both sides in fundraising — has so far spent the most on television ads. Hartzler’s six-figure ad buy will run Feb. 21 to March 18, coinciding with the NCAA’s winter championships.
Previous political advertisements touching on transgender issues have faced backlash, including one created by the conservative American Principles Project in 2020 that was rejected by Facebook.