Two prominent Republicans have filed to run for the seat now held by Missouri’s longest serving member of Congress, a signal that the GOP is no longer giving West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton a pass.

A total of seven Republicans have filed at the Secretary of State’s office to run for the 4th Congressional District. Two names stand out: State Senator Bill Stouffer of Napton and former State Representative Vicky Hartzler of Harrisonville.

Republicans have offered only token challengers to Congressman Ike Skelton’s re-election the past few election cycles. Skelton has seemed entrenched in the seat he first won in 1976. He is, by far, the most senior member of the Missouri Congressional delegation.

We asked Stouffer what has changed this year.

“Well, I think the last three or four years he has voted with (US House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi 95% of the time. I think that no longer represents this district,” Stouffer says. “I think that folks are ready for a change.”

Neither Stouffer nor Hartzler is surprised at the crowded Republican primary. Both charge that Skelton, often considered a conservative Democrat, has drifted to the left after assuming leadership in Washington.

Hartzler says Republicans are anxious to make a serious run at Skelton, because they believe he’s vulnerable.

“I think it’s indicative of the conservative nature of our district,” Hartzler says. “And that the people are just waking up all over and saying, ‘Hey, our representative isn’t standing up for us anymore and I can do better.’”

Hartzler says that Skelton has been voting more with Democratic leaders in Washington since becoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Republicans charge that Skelton’s chairmanship would be threatened if he did otherwise.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]