Associated Press (AP) — Republican leaders got their wish with the defeat of former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens in the US Senate primary. Now they face another complication: a well-funded, right-wing political newcomer who could shatter some of the Republican and independent vote in November.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt pulled a stunningly dominant win Tuesday in the GOP primaries. Regards, forced to resign by sex and campaign finance scandals in 2018 and accused of abuse by his ex-wife in a March court document, did not even finish second, also beaten by US Representative Vicky Hartzler.
Schmitt takes on Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine in Nov. The X factor is John Wood, a Republican running as an independent. He was the US Attorney in Missouri from 2007 to 2009, and prior to that held a key role in President George W. Bush’s administration. He was most recently a senior research advisor for the Jan. 6 committee.
Backed by a political action committee led by retired Republican Senator John Danforth, Wood reiterated on Wednesday that he is competing to win it. He accused Schmitt of extremism and noted that he was questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“He’s very divisive and extreme and playing against the extreme parts of the Republican Party,” Wood said of Schmitt. “I think there’s still room for a mainstream candidate that will appeal to a large portion of Missouri voters.”
Schmitt, 47, is a former senator from the suburbs of St. Louis who was elected state treasurer in 2016. He was named Attorney General after Josh Hawley left the seat following his election to the U.S. Senate in 2019. Schmitt won another term as Attorney General in 2020. He was one of many to enter the Senate race shortly after two terms in office. participated Republican Roy Blunt announced his retirement last year.
Missouri was considered a swing state ten years ago. Now it’s firmly Republican, making Schmitt the favorite. Yet he faces two well-funded opponents.
Valentine, 65, is an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch fortune. Her campaign got off to a late start and was largely self-funded, but her onslaught of TV ads overcame a strong grassroots effort from Navy veteran Lucas Kunce, overwhelming everyone — Republican or Democrat — during the primaries.
Wood, 52, has the strong backing of Danforth, who believes Wood is part of the answer to vitriol pervasive politics. Danforth said in a statement that his Missouri Stands United PAC has already spent $5 million on Wood’s campaign and will spend more, including $700,000 over the next three weeks on TV and digital advertising alone.
Missouri GOP agent John Hancock said Wood has “zero chance” of winning, and he doesn’t believe he can get enough votes from Schmitt to push Valentine to victory.
“They’re not positioning (Wood) as a middle-of-the-road independent, they’re positioning him as a conservative, and the Republicans just nominated a conservative,” Hancock said. “So there’s no real job for him to run in here. And given the state of the Missouri electorate and how substantially right of center it is, if he finishes in the single or even the low double digits, Eric Schmitt wins.” still.”
Still, Wood is showing some signs of support. To run as an independent in November, he had to file petitions signed by 10,000 registered voters by August 1. He submitted more than 20,000.
Valentine’s campaign manager, Alex Witt, said Wood’s presence “definitely disrupts the partisan trend we’ve seen in Missouri over the past few cycles, and I think it makes this race very competitive for a Democrat.
“Missourians will find Trudy’s experience as a nurse and her common sense and compassionate approach very appealing,” Witt said.