(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.