COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday with surprising ease, ending months of worry among GOP leaders that scandal-scarred former Gov. Eric Greitens could win the primary, which would jeopardize a seat that should remain reliably red in November.
Anheuser Busch Valentine is the Anheuser-Busch beer Heiress and Schmitt’s opponent in November. Trudy Busch Valentine defeated Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran, as well as nine other Democrats, in the Democratic primary. John Wood (an independent well-funded candidate) will be challenging them both. John Wood has former Sen. John Danforth’s financial backing.
With nearly 90% of results in, Schmitt had more votes than his nearest two competitors — U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Greitens — combined, turning what was expected to be a tight race into a blowout.
“I’m proud of my working-class roots, and I’m going to Washington to fight for working families, defeating socialism, and leading the fight to save America,” Schmitt said in his victory speech in suburban St. Louis.
Greitens told a downcast crowd in another St. Louis suburb to “go home with strength and pride.”
“God has a plan,” Greitens said. “It doesn’t always work on our timeline, but it does work on his. Sometimes we have to practice patience.”
After a scandal involving Greitens, which led to two criminal cases being dropped against him and an investigation into the legislative process that could have lead to impeachment hearings, Greitens quit four years ago. He was accused by his ex-wife of abuse this year.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s announcement last year that he would not seek a third term set off a frenzy for his job, with nearly three dozen people in the two major parties filing to run.
Schmitt was defeated by a field including Hartzler and U.S. Rep. Billy Long. McCloskey gained fame in 2020 after he and his wife shot guns at protestors of racial justice outside their house.
Voter Darrel Duke, a Columbian heavy-equipment operator of 63 years, stated that he believes Schmitt could bring new voices to Washington.
“I like all of his positions on draining the swamp,” Durham said.
On Monday, former President Donald Trump expressed support for “ERIC,” presumably meaning either Schmitt or Greitens, without picking between them. Eric McElroy (comedian, Navy veteran) was also present on the GOP primary ballot.
“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote.
Voter Richard Greenup, a 66-year-old computer programmer from Columbia, said he wants “somebody that’s going to support Trump” and that he chose Schmitt over Greitens because, “good or bad, Schmitt, I don’t think, has that baggage.”
Greitens was a Rhodes scholar who is also a Navy SEAL veteran and an ex-officio officer in the Navy. He had served as governor since January 2018. In that year, he reported on a television report about an extramarital affair that took place in 2015. After allegedly snapping a nude picture of the woman to hide his identity, Greitens was charged with felony invasion. The charges were dropped after months of allegations that the chief prosecutor and the local prosecutor had mishandled the investigation.
Greitens (48) claims he was the victim a political hit.
A second accusation was levelled against him, this time he was accused of using an illegal donor list belonging to a charity that he created in order to raise funds for his campaign. After an investigation by the Missouri House, he was cleared of that charge and he quit in June 2018.
Greitens denies the child abuse claims made against him by his exwife. She cited one instance where he allegedly slapped their then-3-year-old son’s face and yanked him by the hair. She also accused him of pushing and pushing her to the floor in another instance.
Greitens also drew criticism for a June campaign video showing him brandishing a shotgun and declaring he’s hunting RINOs, or Republicans in name only.
Schmitt (47) has been in the news for his lawsuits, which critics claim are political motivated. China for the coronavirus. School districts for mandates on masks. St. Louis City for its $1 million plan for women traveling out of state for abortions.
“I’ve always been a fighter and as your attorney general I have fought in court to protect our those liberties,” Schmitt said in his victory speech, citing mask and vaccine mandates, among other things.
Valentine, 65, is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., the longtime chair and CEO of Anheuser-Busch who built the St. Louis-based company into the world’s largest beermaker. InBev bought the brewery in 2008. Valentine said she entered the race after witnessing the “division in our country and the vitriol in our politics.”
“After hundreds of career politicians, it’s time for a nurse in the Senate,” Valentine said in a victory speech.
Bob Westlake (67) and Mary Jo Westlake (69), both voted in Valentine. She was a strong advocate for greater health insurance coverage, which the Chesterfield couple appreciated.
“Health care is a big deal to us,” Bob Westlake said, adding that they have a daughter with a chronic illness and that he and his wife are on Medicare.
Kunce, age 39, was defeated despite Senator Bernie Sanders’ support. Kunce was a veteran of tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kunce, like John Fetterman (Pennsylvania Senate candidate), viewed himself as a populist.
Wood’s entry into the race created new drama. Wood (52), a Republican by blood, is an ex-U.S. Attorney and was most recently the top investigator on the U.S. House Committee that examined the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. Danforth’s PAC has pledged to spend up to $20 million in support of Wood’s campaign.
—Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. David A. Lieb, Associated Press reporter, contributed from Jefferson City.
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