The Missouri U.S. Senate race now has an independent candidate. Kansas City-based attorney Craig O’Dear announced Monday that he’s been cleared for the November election.

Attorney Craig O’Dear, an independent candidate for Missouri U.S. Senate (Image courtesy of KOLR-TV)

A release from O’Dear said the Secretary of State certified just under 15,000 signatures petitioning for his placement on the ballot. The release says O’Dear will be the first independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri in modern history.

He’s entering one of the most closely-watched Senate races in the country between Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill and Republican challenger and sitting state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

As of the most recent filing period with the Federal Election Commission, O’Dear has $140,600 cash on hand while McCaskill has $6.6 million and Hawley has $2.3 million.

O’Dear told Misourinet in January he knows both McCaskill and Hawley and considers them people of good will and good intentions. He said he’s not running against them as much as he’s running to bring the country together.

“My vision is that we need to move away from partisanship and gridlock towards efforts to find common ground and to unify our country, and to starts solving our problems,” said O’Dear.

The northeast Missouri native is a corporate trial lawyer with the Bryan Cave law firm in Kansas City. He graduated from the Missouri University of Science & Technology, and with a law degree from Vanderbilt University.

O’Dear says he first became involved in politics as a centrist Republican in the early 1980’s, inspired by Missouri GOP icon John Danforth and other “statesmen” from both parties. He’s more recently been associated with the Centrist Project, which was formed in 2014 and evolved into Unite America to encourage independent candidates to run for public office.

The new Senate candidate considers Kansas politician Greg Orman an ally. Orman is running as an independent for Governor of Kansas after falling short in an independent bid to unseat longtime Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in 2014.

O’Dear was also an early supporter of former Missouri Republican Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned from office in June while surrounded by numerous controversies. After holding a fundraiser for Greitens, O’Dear says he and Greitens separated when Geitens took a position opposing stem cell research, which he considers an important part of the life science industry in Missouri.

O’Dear thinks today’s political environment is problematic because candidates are forced to appeal to extreme elements in their parties just to secure a nomination. “The situation that exists today with the two parties having a business model that plays totally to their base and is designed to, quote-unquote, energize the base, that’s a strategy that divides people,” O’Dear said.

He has 14,983 signatures and will be officially verified on Tuesday as a candidate on the November ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Voters will also have the option in November of choosing Libertarian candidate Japheth Campbell and Green Party entry Jo Crain.

O’Dear says he threw his hat into the Senate race after being persuaded that voters would respond if given the option to choose a centrist candidate.

“I think this election offers the possibility of a historic choice where we can choose a different approach and a different direction,” said O’Dear. “And if we do it, I think it will change the dynamic in Washington D.C.”

Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV contributed to this story