April 22, 2024


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 split some of the Republican and independent vote in November.

Attorney General Eric Schmidt won a surprisingly landslide victory in Tuesday’s GOP primary. Greitens, who was forced by sex and financial scandals to resign in 2018 and accused by his ex-wife of abuse in a March court document, didn’t even finish second, but so did U.S. Rep. Vicki Hartzler.

Schmitt will face Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine in November. The X factor is John Wood, a Republican running as an independent. He served as the U.S. attorney for Missouri from 2007 to 2009 and before that held key roles in the administration of President George W. Bush. He was most recently a senior investigative advisor to the January 6 commission.

Backed by a political action committee led by retiring Republican Sen. John Danforth, Wood reiterated Wednesday that he wants to win it. He accused Schmidt of extremism, noting his court challenge to the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“He’s very divisive and extreme and plays to the fringes of the Republican Party,” Wood said of Schmidt. “I think there’s still room for a mainstream candidate who will appeal to a large segment of Missouri voters.”

Schmidt, 47, is a former senator from suburban St. Louis who was elected state treasurer in 2016. He was appointed attorney general after Josh Hawley vacated the seat after his election to the U.S. Senate in 2019. Schmidt won another term as attorney general in 2020. He was among several who entered the Senate race soon after two-term Republican Roy Blunt announced he would retire.

Missouri was considered a swing state just a decade ago. Now, they’re solidly Republican, making Schmitt the odds-on favorite. However, he will face two well-funded rivals.

Valentine, 65, is heir to the Anheuser-Busch fortune. Her campaign got off to a slow start and was largely self-funded, but her onslaught of TV ads overcame a strong grassroots effort by Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who outspent everyone — Republican or Democrat — during the primaries.

Wood, 52, has the strong support of Danforth, who believes Wood is part of the answer to the vitriol that permeates 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 in the next three weeks alone on television and digital ads.

Missouri GOP Rep. John Hancock said Wood has “zero chance” of winning and doesn’t think he can take enough votes away from Schmidt to push Valentine to victory.

“They’re not positioning (Wood) as an independent, middle of the road, they’re positioning him as a conservative, and the Republicans just nominated a conservative,” Hancock said. “So there’s no real lane to run. here. And given the state of the electorate in Missouri and how substantially right of center it is, if it comes down to single digits or even low double digits, Eric Schmidt still wins.”

However, Wood is showing some signs of support. To get on the November ballot as an independent, he had to submit petitions signed by 10,000 registered voters by Aug. 1. He gave more than 20,000.

Valentine’s campaign manager Alex Witt said Wood’s presence “definitely disrupts the partisanship that we’ve seen in Missouri the last 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 truly appealing,” Witt said.


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