Trudy Busch Valentine, the Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at a Springfield fundraiser for five Democratic women seeking election to the Missouri House from Greene County. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

ANALYSIS |

One of the sharpest differences between Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine and Republican Eric Schmitt in the race for U.S. Senate is in their diametrically opposed views on allowing women a right to seek an abortion.

With polls suggesting Schmitt enjoys a comfortable lead in the Nov. 8 contest to replace Sen. Roy Blunt, it’s hardly surprising that Busch Valentine would seek to capitalize on voter discontent about the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. 

“Empowered women empower women,” Busch Valentine told a crowd of about 60 people gathered Saturday, Oct. 1, in downtown Springfield for a fundraiser for five women seeking Greene County seats in the Missouri House. “It’s important for women to have a seat at the table,” she said.

As an example, she pointed to women’s health care issues, saying “people should have the power to make their own health care decisions, including abortion and birth control.”

A new TV ad from Busch Valentine — airing in Springfield and other major TV markets — criticizes Schmitt for his views and his action as attorney general to trigger Missouri’s near-total ban on abortions. Valentine declares: “Government mandating women’s health care decisions is un-American. I’ll protect our freedoms.”

Schmitt, in fact, touts his role in acting almost immediately to issue an opinion after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Schmitt also later sued to block St. Louis from using public money to ensure abortion access

Rich Chrismer, spokesman for Schmitt’s campaign, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch via email that Valentine “is so extreme on this issue that she supports abortion at every stage, including partial-birth abortion, taxpayer-funded abortion” and even “live-birth abortion policies.”

Busch Valentine also unveiled a second TV ad taking Schmitt to task for supporting legislation nine years ago to allow foreign ownership of Missouri farmland. Several of Schmitt’s opponents in the Republican primary similarly tried to brand Schmitt as pro-China for the votes he took while a member of the Missouri Senate.

This Post-Dispatch story from 2015 traces some of the history of the 2013 vote to allow up to 1 percent of Missouri’s agricultural land to come under foreign ownership. Schmitt is not mentioned in the story, which pins the effort on then-state Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, and Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, chairman of the Senate agriculture committee. The change was spurred by Smithfield Foods, which was looking to sell itself to a Chinese company. Smithfield was the largest employer in Guernsey’s district, and it was among his biggest campaign contributors.

For his part, Schmitt took to the airwaves with his first broadcast TV ad of the general election campaign. “Grill Dad,” which is airing in Springfield, highlights the impact of rising inflation on the everyday lives of Missourians, blaming the policies of Democratic President Joe Biden.

“Biden’s inflation is taking the sizzle out of our economy and costing your family over seven hundred dollars a month,” Schmitt says. “In the Senate, I’ll end the wasteful spending and put more money back in your pocket.”

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

In the News

Missouri may send Eric Schmitt to the Senate, but which version would arrive in Washington? — In an insightful story for the Kansas City Star, former Springfield News-Leader reporter Jonathan Shorman and his colleague Kacen Bayless take a look at the evolution of Schmitt since his days in the Missouri Senate, where he had a “reputation as a pragmatic Republican who was willing to work across the aisle.”

As the Nov. 8 election — in which Schmitt is favored to defeat Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine — approaches, little evidence suggests Schmitt plans to pivot back to the bipartisan pragmatism of his state Senate tenure.

He is poised to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, one of the Senate’s most practically-minded members.

But interviews with legislators, former colleagues, Republican operatives and others familiar with Schmitt and his political career suggest his approach would be much closer to Sen. Josh Hawley, who preceded Schmitt as attorney general. Hawley helped spearhead the effort in the Senate to overturn the 2020 election and regularly offers provocative legislation with close to zero chance of passage.

The Busch family has influenced Missouri politics for decades. Can it sway the Senate race? — The Kansas City Star also delves into the Busch family history of involvement in state politics and says some believe “that clout may offer a small opening for Busch Valentine in the race for U.S. Senate where she faces long odds against Schmitt.” The story also notes:

While Busch Valentine is the only Busch on the Nov. 8 ballot, some members of the prominent family have financially backed Schmitt. August Busch III, Busch Valentine’s half brother who has donated $5,800 to her campaign, also donated $250,000 to a PAC supporting Schmitt before Busch Valentine entered the race. He donated another $100,000 to a PAC that sought to torpedo former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ primary bid against Schmitt.

COVID pandemic isn’t over, says Missouri Democrat Busch Valentine in break with Biden — In an interview with the Kansas City Star’s editorial board, Busch Valentine said the COVID pandemic continues: “I don’t think it’s over. I think people are still dying.”

Tweets of the Week

The Daily Citizen Senate Campaign Digest is compiled by David Stoeffler, CEO of the Daily Citizen. Stoeffler has more than 30 years of experience in covering politics in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Missouri. If you have tips or suggestions for the Senate campaign coverage, you may email him at dstoeffler@sgfcitizen.org.

David Stoeffler

David Stoeffler is the chief executive officer of the Springfield Daily Citizen. He has more than 40 years experience in the news business, having been a reporter, editor and news executive in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Arizona and Missouri. You may email him at dstoeffler@sgfcitizen.org or call 417-837-3664. More by David Stoeffler