Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt defeats Greitens in GOP Senate primary
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt defeated scandal-scarred former Gov. Eric Greitens and 19 others on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate Republican primary.
Republican leaders have long feared that a victory for Greitens could jeopardize a red Senate seat in November’s general election. Greitens resigned four years ago amid a sex scandal, two criminal charges that were eventually dropped amid a very real risk of impeachment. This year, his ex-wife accused him of abuse.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s announcement last year that he would not seek a third term sparked a frenzy for his work, with nearly three dozen people in both major parties running. The Democratic race, largely a showdown between Navy veteran Lucas Kunce and Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine, had yet to be called.
Schmitt defeated a field that also included U.S. Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, and Mark McCloskey, who gained notoriety in 2020 when he and his wife pointed guns at protesters against racial injustice outside their home.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar, had been governor for a year when in January 2018 he confirmed a television report about a 2015 extramarital affair. He was later charged with privacy invasion crime for allegedly taking a nude photo of the woman and using it to silence her. This load was dropped months later amid allegations that the chief investigator and local prosecutor mishandled the investigation.
Greitens, 48, says he was the victim of a political coup.
He faced a second charge accusing him of illegally using a list of donors from a charity he founded to raise money for his campaign. That was dropped when he resigned in June 2018 after the Missouri House opened an impeachment inquiry.
This year, Greitens’ ex-wife accused him of abuse in an affidavit in a child custody case. She cited a case where Eric Greitens allegedly slapped their then 3-year-old son’s face and pulled him by the hair. In another, she accused him of pushing her to the ground.
Greitens denied the allegations and accused his ex-wife of colluding with Republican stalwarts such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to sabotage his campaign. Sheena Greitens said she hasn’t worked with anyone.
Greitens also drew criticism for a June campaign video showing him brandishing a shotgun and declaring he hunts RINOs, or Republicans in name only.
Schmitt, 47, caught the eye for the lawsuits that critics say are politically motivated. He sued China over the coronavirus; school districts on mask mandates; and the City of St. Louis for its plan to provide $1 million for women to travel out of state for abortions.
Hartzler, 61, is a former home economics professor and state legislator first elected to Congress in 2010. She is a Trump supporter who voted against certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Still, Trump went out of his way last month to say he wouldn’t support Hartzler.
On Monday, Trump voiced his support for “ERIC,” presumably meaning either Schmitt or Greitens, without choosing between them. There is a third Eric in the Republican primary, comedian and Navy veteran Eric McElroy.
“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, just like they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 elections, and so I’m proud to announce that ERIC has my full and full approval!” Trump wrote.
Committees supporting Greitens and Schmitt quickly issued phone calls demanding Trump’s endorsement.
Kunce, 39, received his own big endorsement on Monday — from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Kunce has completed missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a candidate for the Senate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Kunce is a populist who hopes to win back rural voters. He wants to ban stock ownership by members of Congress, break up corporate monopolies and end foreign ownership of farmland.
Valentine, 65, is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., longtime chairman and CEO of Anheuser-Busch that made the St. Louis-based company the largest beer maker in the world. The brewery was sold to InBev in 2008. Valentine said she entered the race after witnessing “the division in our country and the vitriol in our politics”.
The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries could face an independent candidate with significant financial support. John Bois, 52, a lifelong Republican, former U.S. attorney and most recently top investigator for the U.S. House committee examining the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising, has the backing of a political action committee headed by former Republican Senator John Danforth.