Eric Greitens campaigns in KC in final sprint of Senate primaries
Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens campaigned in Kansas City on Monday, hammering Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell as he sought support from the right in the Aug. 2 Senate Republican primary, four only years after his governorship ended in scandal.
Greitens, who quit in 2018 amid allegations of sexual assault and blackmail, spoke to more than 100 people downtown at an event hosted by KCMO Talk Radio. It was his first appearance in the city since a special prosecutor on Friday refused to indict a former Kansas City Police Department captain for his role in a ride along Greitens with police in April that he had used to promote his campaign.
The event also marked one of Greitens’ first appearances since answering questions under oath about alleged child abuse during a closed-door deposition last week in Jefferson City as part of of an ongoing child custody case. Sheena Greitens, his ex-wife and former first lady of Missouri, accused Greitens in an affidavit of physical and emotional abuse toward her and their young children.
Kansas City’s campaign halt came as one of its main Republican rivals, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, hosted an event at Lee’s Summit with Sen. Josh Hawley, who endorsed it. Greitens’ other biggest rival, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, visited the state over the weekend with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Greitens ran through a list of right-wing hot topics, from support for building a border wall to criticizing President Joe Biden over rising inflation. But he has spent much of his time – and reserved much of his fury – for Republicans whom he portrays as insufficiently tough or loyal, whom he calls RINOS, or Republicans in name only. Greitens launched a controversial ad last month that depicted him hunting RINOs with a shotgun.
McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, was a frequent target.
“Who was running the Senate when President Trump was elected? Mitch McConnell. Did they fund the border wall? No,” Greitens said as the crowd booed McConnell.
Greitens said he would not vote for McConnell, of Kentucky, for Republican leader if elected. On Monday night, he said in response to a question from an audience member that he would endorse Sen. Rand Paul, the other Republican senator from Kentucky, for the job.
The primary race has entered the final sprint ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election. Polls have consistently shown a close contest between Greitens, Hartzler and Schmitt.
But some recent polls suggest support for Greitens may have softened a bit. A Trafalgar Group poll taken over the weekend puts Schmitt at 26.5%, Hartzler at 24.4% and Greitens at 20.2% support among likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error is 2.9%.
The attacks on Greitens have been particularly intense in recent weeks. His custody case was also thoroughly reviewed, culminating in last week’s deposition, which was closed to the public. A transcript has not been made public.
“I don’t think it’s smart to tie up a woman in your basement when your wife is five months pregnant and then try to say you’re a conservative,” Hartzler said during a event this month in the Kansas City area, referring to past allegations against Greitens that he restrained a woman and blackmailed her.
Yet the attacks on Greitens have been fueled largely by millions in non-campaign spending. Show Me Values PAC, created to attack Greitens, allocated at least $7.4 million in TV, text and direct mail advertising to voters. The PAC’s largest disclosed donor, St. Louis investor and mega-donor Rex Sinquefield, has supported Schmitt throughout his political career.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher. We need the majority,” Schmitt said of the race Saturday during a stop in Cottleville, near St. Louis, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Greitens denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and abusive behavior.
“What this shows is how desperate they are. It shows how desperate they are,” Greitens said Monday of the attacks on him.
Democrats Court Kansas City Votes
Whoever wins the Republican primary will likely face Lucas Kunce or Trudy Busch Valentine, the main contenders for the Democratic nomination, in the general election.
Both candidates have been campaigning in Kansas City for the past few days.
Kunce, a former Marine, made his pitch to Kansas City voters earlier this month at the J. Rieger & Co. Distillery. He has led a populist campaign centered on reversing the decadence he says will seizes the working-class districts of the State.
“When we stand up for something, people believe in us. We can bring people back. We can actually win,” Kunce said.
Busch Valentine, philanthropist and heir to the Busch beer family, enjoys the support of much of the state’s Democratic establishment. On Saturday, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas attended a Busch Valentine meet and greet event at the Clay County Democratic Headquarters. Lucas said he didn’t approve but was trying to find out more.
“I am in this race because the divisions and the vitriol in our country are so strong, we have to start working together. We have to regain dignity. We have to bring back truth, honesty and a person of character”, has said Busch Valentine.
Kunce alleged that Busch Valentine was trying to use his personal wealth to buy the race. Busch Valentine dismissed the attack, telling reporters it was not possible.
“How can I buy an election,” said Busch Valentine. “People have to go out and vote. It’s the only way to win an election.
This story was originally published July 25, 2022 9:55 p.m.