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Missouri Republican AG claims victory in Missouri primary for US Senate

Eric Schmitt had moved up in polls, edging out former Governor Eric Greitens who faces accusations of spousal abuse.

(CN) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt emerged with a victory in Tuesday’s primary for U.S. Senate, edging out former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler for the right to compete against the Democratic primary winner Trudy Busch Valentine in November.

The Republican primary race was called by the Associated Press about two hours after polls closed. At that point with less than 1,000 of Missouri’s 3,592 precincts reporting, Schmitt had 41% of the vote, Hartzler 24%, and Greitens 21%.

In the Democratic primary, Busch Valentine, a member of the famed Busch beer family and longtime Democratic donor who had never before run for office, was declared the winner by the Associated Press with 43% of the vote and nearly all precincts reporting. She defeated second-place contender Lucas Kunce, a 13-year Marine veteran and antitrust advocate, who had 38% of the vote.

““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.”

Missouri voters faced a field crowded with 21 Republican U.S. Senate candidates and 11 Democrats competing for the opportunity to run in the fall to replace Republican Roy Blunt, who is not seeking reelection to a third term.

Spending in the race topped $43 million as of mid-July, the Missouri Independent reported.

No matter who wins on either side, the Republican nominee will be heavily favored to take the general election in November. Donald Trump won Missouri by double-digits in both 2016 and 2020 and the Republican Party dominates the legislature.

Recent polls showed Attorney General Eric Schmitt gaining in what had been shaping up to be a three-person race involving former Governor Eric Greitens and U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, who is completing her sixth term in Congress.

All three have battled for a Donald Trump endorsement.

Trump took the unusual step of specifically stating that he would not endorse Hartzler on his social media platform on July 8.

Trump, on the same platform, did endorse “Eric” on Monday evening, but didn’t specify whether he meant Greitens or Schmitt.

Both Greitens and Schmitt claimed the endorsement as their own.

“Honored to have the support of President Trump! We will MAGA!” Greitens tweeted.

Schmitt also tweeted: “BREAKING: Donald Trump endorses Eric Schmitt for Senate. Stand with Trump and vote for proven conservative Eric Schmitt tomorrow.”

Greitens and Hartzler had the early advantage in the polls with Schmitt lurking close behind in third. But Schmitt has surged, attacking Hartzler as a D.C. insider and seizing on Trump’s non-endorsement and attacking Greitens’ character. Greitens resigned as governor amid allegations that he extorted a former mistress with nude photos of her, and he currently is litigating a contentious divorce with lurid accusations of spousal and child abuse.

Schmitt, the state’s attorney general, has fashioned himself as a classic Trump conservative. His ads show him taking a blowtorch to President Joe Biden’s socialist agenda and most recently his television ads have attacked Hartzler of being a Washington insider and Greitens of being a wife and child abuser.

As attorney general, he has filed numerous lawsuits — often with little success — against China regarding the spread of Covid-19, suing school districts and local governments over Covid-19 mask mandates. Most recently, he made Missouri the first in the country to enforce a previously passed trigger law outlawing abortion after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

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 Hartzler, who early in the campaign gained a key endorsement from Missouri’s junior U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, who also has a favorable rating among Missouri voters despite an infamous picture of him raising his fist in support of the rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, just before they stormed the Capitol.

St. Louis County voter Jeffrey Lee, who considers himself a left-center Democrat, actually considered taking a Republican ballot to vote for Greitens because he considered him to be the weakest link in November, but decided against it. In Missouri, voters chose which party ballot they want in primary elections and vote only for those candidates.

“I've spoken to Democratic strategists, and their opinion is it's not worth the risk, because you could end up promoting an extreme candidate on the right, and then they end up winning the general election, and I don't want to be responsible for helping to promote something like that,” Lee said.

In taking a Democratic ballot, Lee said he chose Lucas Kunce over Trudy Busch Valentine — the two front-runners on left side of the ticket.

Kunce is a 13-year Marine veteran and antitrust advocate. Busch Valentine, a member of the Busch family beer mogul, has long been a Democratic donor and fundraiser but has never run for office.

“My feeling is with the military background and the policy backgrounds, Lucas Kunce is a little bit more, and again it's not by much, he's just a little bit more to the center and that is probably his best chance of winning a general election in the state of Missouri,” Lee said. “It's just my opinion.”

Lee said he would vote Democrat in the general election no matter who won.

Like Lee, state voters are having trouble picking a favorite among two fields where the candidates have said very little while using TV and print ads to compete over who is the most conservative or liberal among them.

Jackson County voter Lorrie Meeker considers herself a regular conservative voter. She is backing Schmitt but plans to support whoever the winner is in the general election.

Economy is foremost in Meeker’s mind as she headed to the poll.

“One, we need to get the jobs back, and two, we need to stop all the giveaways,” Meeker said. “If we're going to sell our strategic oil reserves, we should not be selling them for less than what we should be selling it to our own people. I mean, you don't sell our strategic oil reserves for $85 a gallon to China and charge us over $100-plus per gallon.”

St. Louis County voter Mary C., a Democrat, is backing Kunce. She believes Kunce’s grass roots funding and him being a working class veteran gives him a leg up over Busch Valentine in terms of broad appeal. She also is concerned that Busch Valentine’s self-funding might turn off some voters.

A regular voter, Mary C. is also looking for a candidate who values women’s reproductive rights, especially when it comes to the right to an abortion.

“Who's going to go to bat for women in Missouri to try to get that issue rectified both at the state and hopefully working towards the federal level as well,” Mary C. said. “In addition to bodily autonomy, also looking for those issues, such as access to contraception, and things like that.”

She also said environmental issues such as climate change and gun control are also on her mind.

“What the Democrats have to figure out is how they can reconnect with voters outside of the central cities and Boone County in the middle of the state,” said Peverill Squire, a University of Missouri at Columbia political science professor, in an interview. “Perhaps pick up more votes, not necessarily a majority, but at least more votes in rural areas, and at this point, they really don't seem to have a great deal of success in doing that.”

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