If you could spend a couple of hours on the campaign trail with each of the leading candidates for party nominations for Missouri’s open seat in the U.S. Senate, you would come away with strong impressions of how they interact with people, and what issues they think are most important.
You might be drawn to the macho and magnetic personalities of Republican Eric Greitens or Democrat Lucas Kunce.
If you prefer affable politicians with a sense of humor, you can’t miss with Billy Long.
Vicky Hartzler is letting her faith show through. Eric Schmitt touts his anti-Biden bona fides.
Dave Schatz hearkens to a kinder, gentler era — or at least one where Republicans did not throw so many grenades at each other.
Empathy? Maybe you would like Democrats Trudy Busch Valentine, who is a nurse, or Spencer Toder, whose grassroots campaign focuses on doing good, not just seeking votes.
While you can’t spend two hours with each candidate, you can spend 5-10 minutes with each of them through a series of profiles produced by the Missouri Independent. The Independent is a nonprofit news organization and part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors. The digital news site maintains its editorial independence, although Republicans locally and nationally believe it has a liberal bias.
The Springfield Daily Citizen publishes some Independent stories on state government and politics. Here is a roundup of the recent series of profiles on the top five Republican candidates (in alphabetical order), followed by stories on the top three Democrat candidates, in the Aug. 2 primary.
Excerpt: The Eric Greitens running for Senate in 2022 isn’t all that different from the one who rode a wave of voter discontent into the governor’s office in 2016. He’s still preaching the gospel that corrupt politicians are screwing over Missourians, and he’s still convinced he’s the only one equipped to change that. He swapped out “ISIS hunting permits” as a fundraising ploy for “RINO hunting permits,” and still adores footage of himself with firearms.
But the scandals that dominated his public life for the last four years — specifically the repeated claims of physical and sexual violence — have given his 2022 campaign a much darker hue. “I’d rather fight the Taliban. They were trying to kill me, but at least they were honest about it,” Greitens told a supporter outside an event in Ridgedale in April. “Hit you with a suicide truck bomb. Shoot at you with RPGs. Unfortunately, it’s the RINOs, because of their corruption and their cowardice, that they’re always stabbing people in the back.” Read full profile
Excerpt: To the Republican voters who gathered recently in Salem, Vicky Hartzler started her story at the beginning, followed by a bit of humor at her own expense. “I’m just a farm girl from Archie, Missouri,” she said. Her parents raised crops and livestock, and one summer her father offered her 15 cents for every sparrow she shot to scare them away from the crops. … “And I want you to know by the end of that summer, I earned 45 cents,” Hartzler said, laughing.
… For most of her career, Hartzler has run her campaigns from the standard Republican playbook – decrying federal deficits and regulations, supporting tough immigration policies and pushing for military spending. But politicians also decide what issues mean the most to them, personally, and for Hartzler it has been opposition to expanded acceptance for LGBTQ individuals in cultural, social, legal and political arenas. Her views, she said, are based in her faith. Read full profile
Excerpt: No one seems to be having more fun running for U.S. Senate in Missouri than Billy Long. The six-term Congressman’s Twitter feed is a parade of shots at his GOP rivals, jabbing Eric Schmitt (who Long refers to as “Chicken Schmitt”), Vicky Hartzler (“Mini Liz Cheney”) and Eric Greitens (“Snidely Whiplash”) for what he feels are a lack of conservative bonafides. He’s become a mainstay of Missouri’s right-wing radio, and says he’s enjoyed hopscotching the state meeting voters who live outside his southwest Missouri district.
“I mean, I love campaigning,” Long said in an interview with The Independent. … “I was an auctioneer and a real estate broker my whole life. And to be an auctioneer and real estate broker, you got to be upbeat, positive, optimistic.” But Long’s exuberance hasn’t translated into success in public polls of the race. He doesn’t trust surveys commissioned by his opponents, which put him in single digits, but even Long’s own internal polling shows him trailing. Read full profile
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Excerpt: Dave Schatz hopes his achievements speak for themselves. He sponsored the first gas tax increase since the early ‘90s that will infuse about $1.8 billion toward Missouri’s crumbling highways and roads and helped shepherd the passage of Missouri’s trigger law banning nearly all abortions. Even if Missourians may not know his name, they’ve likely felt the impacts of the policies he’s worked to pass.
It’s a record Schatz hopes will propel him to the front of the pack in a crowded 21-candidate Republican primary vying for retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat. Read full profile
Excerpt: Eric Schmitt, 47, began his political career as an alderman in his St. Louis County city of Glendale before winning election to the Missouri Senate in 2008, taking 55% of the vote in middle-class neighborhoods along Interstate 44. In a Capitol tour video posted to his official webpage in 2014, Schmitt said he felt humbled by “the grandeur” of the Senate chamber.
“It reminds me,” he said, “that everyone has an opinion, everybody has a different background, and although we come from different parts of the state it is important for us to respect one another, and it speaks to the need for a more civil tone in politics, now more than ever.”
… Since (becoming attorney general), Schmitt has issued more news releases about his opposition to Biden Administration policies and local COVID-19 health rules than any other subjects. On 68 occasions since Biden became president, often working jointly with other Republican attorneys general, Schmitt has announced legal actions, official comments on proposed regulations and strongly worded letters on education, immigration, pandemic, environmental and energy policies. Read full profile
Excerpt: Throughout her life, moments of immense grief have driven Trudy Busch Valentine towards new paths — including earning a degree in theology and serving as a volunteer hospice nurse after her husband died of cancer in 2002. Following her son’s death in 2020 from an opioid overdose, Valentine felt drawn to do whatever she could to fight the opioid epidemic and improve access to quality health care. In March, Valentine entered the race for U.S. Senate, becoming one of 11 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.
Like the other Democratic candidates in the race, Valentine has never held public office before. “I thought, ‘Could I do this?” said Valentine, mother of six children and grandmother to three. “And then my life kind of just went in front of me, and I felt maybe all these times and things throughout my life that really affected me deeply… maybe they’re the exact reason that I can make a difference in a crazy political system.” Read full profile
Excerpt: Lucas Kunce’s life story seems built for a populist Senate campaign in Missouri. He grew up in a modest neighborhood in Jefferson City where a local grocer let his mother float checks when his family couldn’t afford the bill. He attended Yale University on grants, came back to Missouri for law school and served 13 years as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He’s unwilling to tread lightly and is unapologetically outspoken. He wants to “break the system” and refuses to take money from corporate political funds. “The only people I ever want to owe are the people in my neighborhood who took care of me as a kid — and our family — and people just like them around this state,” Kunce said last month at a coffee shop in Independence. Read full profile
Excerpt: Spencer Toder is one of 11 Democratic candidates vying for the Senate seat opening in light of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s retirement, and he has seeded a grassroots campaign for the past 14 months. A first-time candidate for elected office, the 37-year-old St. Louis County native is committed to running a different kind of campaign. He eschewed traditional campaign tactics and instead poured over $330,000 of his own savings into marshaling volunteers and resources to help over 600 people access the Child Tax Credit portal, assist Missourians signing up for health care under Medicaid expansion and collect supplies for Afghan refugees.
“When I started this process, it wasn’t about me being a senator,” Toder said. “It was about fixing democracy.” Read full profile
Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine had been limiting campaign advertising to her home area of St. Louis and also Kansas City — but recently included Springfield in her media buy.
Meanwhile, Democrat Lucas Kunce is hitting hard, unveiling an ad featuring Busch Valentine’s past involvement in winning a beauty competition hosted by the Veiled Prophet Organization, a secretive St. Louis group which has been accused of fostering racism and white supremacy. Busch Valentine was crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty in the 1977 Veiled Prophet Ball, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch archives. She has apologized for her involvement.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.