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Southwest Missouri voters will be represented by two Erics in Washington, D.C., as Republican Eric Schmitt was declared the winner based on early returns in the race for U.S. Senate and Republican Eric Burlison won easily in the race for U.S. House from Missouri’s 7th District.
At 9:12 p.m., the Associated Press projected that Schmitt, the state’s attorney general and a former state treasurer and legislator, was the winner in the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Springfield Republican who chose not to seek reelection after two terms. Schmitt was easily leading Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, a nurse and heir to the Anheuser-Busch brewing family, and two minor party candidates.
Burlison, a conservative firebrand who served four years in the state Senate after eight years in the state House, is set to succeed 12-year incumbent Rep. Billy Long to represent Southwest Missouri. Burlison easily led Democrat Kristen Radaker Sheafer and perennial Libertarian candidate Kevin Craig.
In a short election-night interview with the Daily Citizen, Burlison said he was anxious to see the final results of his contest as well as the fate of House Republicans in general as they hope to retake control of the chamber. “Hopefully, I’m not alone,” and said if successful in taking control, the GOP would “try to get the country back on track.”
IMAGES: Greene County Republicans watch party
Burlison said the campaign focus turned out much different than originally anticipated. “A year ago, inflation was not the No. 1 issue; immigration was the biggest issue.” But higher costs for food, fuel and other basics hit Southwest Missourians hard, he said, especially retirees.
Burlison said his top priorities would include tackling inflation, increasing the number of permits for oil and gas drilling, addressing border security and supporting military spending.
Schmitt gathered with supporters at a celebration in suburban St. Louis: “We didn’t just win an election,” Schmitt said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We sent a message to Joe Biden — we want our country back.”
U.S. Senate results
|With 3,155 of 3,266 precincts reporting||Votes||Pct.|
|✔||Eric Schmitt (Republican)||1,074,162||55.2%|
|Trudy Busch Valentine (Democrat)||825,056||42.4%|
|Jonathan Dine (Libertarian)||32,087||1.6%|
|Paul Venable (Constitution)||13,340||0.7%|
U.S. House 7th District results
|With 262 of 275 precincts reporting||Votes||Pct.|
|✔||Eric Burlison (Republican)||172,888||70.6%|
|Kristen Radaker Sheafer (Democrat)||66,213||27.0%|
|Kevin Craig (Libertarian)||5,700||2.3%|
Burlison burnished conservative credentials
Burlison burnished his conservative credentials in the statehouse through a variety of efforts, but especially as a champion for gun rights. That included promoting passage in 2021 of the so-called Second Amendment Preservation Act, House Bill 85, which prohibits state and local cooperation with federal officials that attempt to enforce any laws, rules, orders, or actions that violate the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.
Burlison grew up in southeast Springfield and Battlefield and currently resides with his wife and two daughters in Ozark, where they are having a new home built. He graduated from Springfield’s Parkview High School and got a Master in Business Administration from Missouri State University in 2002.
He first ran for the Missouri House in 2008, and served two terms representing District 136, then two more terms serving District 133, following redistricting. Facing term limits in the House, in 2018, he moved up to win election in state Senate District 20 — a seat he is giving up while running for Congress.
In addition to his elected position, Burlison is an investment advisor, a consultant for computer software companies Cerner and Oracle, and a property manager.
In closing campaign arguments, Burlison focused attention on the high burden of inflation on Southwest Missouri families. In a campaign stop Monday, he focused on fast-rising food and fuel costs. “It used to be you’d get to the end of the month, you might have a little bit of money leftover. Now, we get to the end of the month, and we’ve got more month at the end of our money.”
He blamed the Biden administration for being “hostile” to energy independence by “declaring war on all our fossil fuels.”
Among other policy goals, Burlison has said he would like to address include securing the border, strengthening the military, modernizing infrastructure and defunding “those 87,000 IRS agents.”
Republicans have been critical of the nearly $80 billion in funding allocated to the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act which would, in part, help the Internal Revenue Service hire an estimated 87,000 new agents to address gaps in their decreasing and aging workforce, according to a Treasury Department report from 2021.
Schmitt has fought Biden policies
Schmitt campaigned on issues related to the economy and several “America First” principles, such as election integrity and holding China accountable.
While Schmitt was thought of as something of a moderate when he was a legislator, he has taken a hard right turn since assuming statewide offices. For example, Schmitt has made wide-ranging use of the powers of his office as attorney general to address issues of high interest to conservatives. He has filed multiple lawsuits challenging policies of the Biden administration, as well as local policies related to the COVID pandemic.
In a campaign stop in Springfield on Monday, Schmitt said he was “not running for the United States Senate to be the most popular person in Washington.” He promised to be an obstacle to the agenda of the Biden administration and Democrats. “We need to stop the reckless spending.”
While outgoing Sen. Roy Blunt had a well-deserved reputation for delivering federal funding to myriad projects in southwest Missouri, including for Missouri State University, Schmitt told reporters he would oppose earmarks in federal budgets.
“I oppose earmarks,” he said when asked specifically about Blunt’s reputation for getting line items into federal budgets for projects back home.
In response to a follow-up question on how he would represent the area, Schmitt said: “Fighting for Southwest Missouri, I’m absolutely going to do that. And just because I oppose earmarks doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight for people in this part of the state.”
“As a statewide officeholder, I fought for the rights of every Missourian,” Schmitt said, citing several lawsuits his office filed, including working against the federal mandate requiring COVID vaccines for workers at private companies with more than 100 employees.
New ally for Sen. Josh Hawley
Many expect Schmitt to follow the lead of the soon-to-be senior senator from Missouri, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley — in fact, it was Hawley’s election to the Senate in 2018 that opened the attorney general position for Schmitt, who was appointed to the job by Gov. Mike Parson. As a social conservative, Hawley has focused on culture issues and is widely known as a critic of “Big Tech,” which was the subject of his 2021 book that argued tech firms are a threat to American liberties.
In a campaign stop Monday in Springfield with Schmitt and others, Hawley touched on a variety of hot-button issues:
- “There are not 15 genders, there are 2 genders. … I don’t want my kids being told that there is something wrong with them because they’re a boy and she’s a girl. I want them to know that the way God made ’em is good.”
- “The Democrats, they’re so out of touch, they think the border’s a joke … and if you talk about the need to secure our border, they say ‘you’re a racist.'”
- “We want folks in Washington, D.C. who believe what we believe, and believe in our way of life. We’re not going to apologize for the state of Missouri and we’re not going to apologize for what we believe in.”
Jack McGee contributed to this report.