Sunday, September 24

Valentine nails big lead in U.S. Senate primary for Missouri Democrats | Politics

ST. LOUIS — Trudy Busch Valentine holds a commanding lead for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate, with about two-thirds of Missouri reporting.

Valentine is up 44% to Lucas Kunce’s 38%, according to a compilation by the New York Times.

Valentine, a retired nurse and heir to the Busch beer brewing fortune, and Kunce, a marine veteran and nonprofit policy staffer, lead a pack of 11 vying for the Democratic nomination in an effort to flip the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Republican Roy Blunt.

Valentine supporters gathered in the Sheet Metal Local 36 Union Hall in St. Louis to watch results come in.

Sharon Boitano, of south St. Louis County, was among the first supporters to arrive, where a bar equipped with Anheuser Busch products and a stage dotted with flags was prepared for the night.

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“I knew right away I would support her,” said Boitano, who spent five hours campaigning for Valentine on Tuesday. “I think she’s a kind-hearted, honest person that would turn the state’s politics around.”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones arrived just after 8 p.m. “Missouri, they say, is a red state. But we have two blue cities on either side in St. Louis and Kansas City,” she said. “So it’s important to have someone representing our interests.”

Jones has scuffled on Twitter for months with Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who, by then had already been declared the winner of the GOP nomination for senate.

“Do you want to send someone to the U.S. Senate who actually believes in what they say or somebody playing a game?” Jones said.

Still, the general election is expected to be an uphill battle for the Democratic nominee in the state where Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election by a more than 15% margin.

Valentine, 65, of Clayton, is a first-time candidate, but longtime funder of democratic politics. With a net worth estimated between $69.4 million and $219.4 million, she mostly self-funded her campaign. 

Valentine has emphasized health care issues through both her personal and professional experience as a nurse in the race. Another focus of the campaign is combating the opioid epidemic. Her son, Matt Valentine, died of an overdose in 2020.

Valentine is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., who died in 1989. Her mother, Gertrude Busch, was Busch’s third wife.

In 2019, her alma mater, the St. Louis University School of Nursing, was named for Valentine after she contributed $4 million to the school.

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“I’m going to come at this differently than people with their guns and their blowtorches,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board in a July interview, referring to the Republican candidates’ use of military props and fighting stances. “I’m not a politician. I never thought I’d run for political office.”

A long list of Misouri Democrats endorsed Valentine, including Jones, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, state Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur and former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt.

Kunce, however, was the campaign’s top fundraiser, with $4.4 million raised through June.

Kunce, a Jefferson City native, attended Yale University, graduated from law school at the University of Missouri-Columbia and then joined the Marine Corps. He spent 13 years in the military, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, before becoming a policy staffer at the American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit opposed to monopolies and concentrated corporate power.

He ran as a populist focused on economic issues, advocating for curbing corporate influence in Congress.

Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Kunce on the eve of the election Monday. 

Businessman Spencer Toder, of Olivette, took a distant third, with less 5% of the vote by late Tuesday. When he entered the race, Toder was CEO of Atrial Innovations, a startup medical device company, and a broker and consultant at Confluence Realty Advisors in St. Louis, according to his Linkedin page. A first-time candidate, Toder funneled more than $800,000 of his own money into his campaign, which has focused on connecting voters with government services.

In all, 11 candidates sought the Democratic nomination. Others were Lewis Rolen of St. Louis, Gena Ross of Platte City, Carla Coffee Wright of St. Louis, Josh Shipp of St. Louis, Jewel Kelly of Festus, Clarence Taylor of St. Louis, Pat Kelly of St. Louis and Ronald William Harris of Kansas City.

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