Allegations against Eric Greitens roil Missouri GOP Senate race : NPR


Then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is seen on Might 17, 2018. The scandal-plagued Republican is now looking for the GOP nomination for the state’s upcoming U.S. Senate major.

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Jeff Roberson/AP

Then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is seen on Might 17, 2018. The scandal-plagued Republican is now looking for the GOP nomination for the state’s upcoming U.S. Senate major.

Jeff Roberson/AP

A number of notable U.S. Senate candidates had been working the group at an annual Lincoln Dinner celebration placed on by the Lafayette County Republican Occasion.

The latest occasion, at a packed gymnasium in Wellington, Mo., was a chance for diehard GOP voters within the rural county outdoors of Kansas Metropolis to mingle with hopefuls looking for to succeed the retiring Sen. Roy Blunt.

Rep. Billy Lengthy was among the many Senate candidates. He was passing out stickers asking voters in the event that they had been “Fed Up” with what was occurring in Washington, D.C., a marketing campaign moniker he is adopted since first operating for the U.S. Home in 2010.

Lengthy is banking on the likelihood that the race will get so nasty that Republican voters will marvel, he mentioned, if “there’s a fats auctioneer in Springfield we are able to vote for.”

“If I can get some oxygen and get the folks to know who I’m, I can win the factor,” Lengthy mentioned.

Lengthy could also be proper in regards to the tenor of Missouri’s Senate contest, primarily due to one candidate who was absent from the Lincoln Dinner: former Gov. Eric Greitens.

After resigning from office in 2018 following a collection of scandals, even Greitens’ most boisterous critics imagine he can win a 21-person Senate major.

He is hoping Missouri Republicans will flock to his message that emphasizes ties to former President Donald Trump’s agenda and method.

“We want fighters who’re keen to do what it takes to take our nation again,” Greitens informed reporters back in February. “To take our nation again from the left — and likewise fighters who’re keen to tackle the institution, keen to tackle the mainstream media.”

However Greitens cannot escape the shadow of scandal.

His ex-wife Sheena Greitens final month filed legal documentation through which she, beneath oath, accused the previous governor of emotional and bodily abuse.

He has denied her claims.

However mixed with the 2018 allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance issues, some Republicans fear that if Greitens had been to win the first, it could place a Senate seat thought-about to be safely GOP in jeopardy.

Others stress that concern over Greitens is about extra than simply successful or shedding an election. They fear about what would occur if Greitens wins and is ready to possess a nationwide platform to advertise himself and his views.

“As soon as he will get the nomination, he is simply going to inform all people, ‘Look, you haven’t any alternative however to help me,’ ” mentioned Stephen Webber, an official with the Missouri AFL-CIO and former state Democratic Occasion chair. “And he is betting that taking again the Senate can be a robust sufficient issue for folks to again him.”

“This messy, darkish story”

When Sheena Greitens’ under-oath statements grew to become public, Kay Hoflander, a former Missouri GOP chair, says she had issue sleeping.

After two days, she determined to do one thing about it: She issued a press release calling for Greitens to get out of the race. And he or she mentioned she was happy when a number of different high-profile ladies concerned with the state Republican Occasion also called for him to exit the contest.

“Some day his youngsters will see this messy, darkish story about their household — and they should know that there have been individuals who stood up for his or her mother,” Hoflander mentioned in an interview.

In contrast to 2018, Greitens, whose marketing campaign did not reply to a request for remark, has steadfastly refused to drop out of the Senate race.

As an alternative, he is claimed with out proof that his ex-wife is concerned in a scheme involving prominent Republicans like Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell. Each Greitens and his marketing campaign amplified this message — which Sheena Greitens’ lawyer known as a “conspiracy theory” — in pleasant media interviews, together with with former Trump aide Steve Bannon.

Sheena Greitens said she has documentation to back up her claims — that are taking part in out in entrance of a decide to maneuver divorce-related proceedings to Texas.

Different notable Republicans, together with Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, have known as for Greitens to depart from the competition. “For those who hit a lady or a toddler, you belong in handcuffs, not the US Senate,” Hawley tweeted in March.

“Burned a variety of bridges”

Issues about Greitens’ normal election chances are high solely a part of the story behind Missouri Republican angst round him.

After he grew to become governor, Greitens made loads of enemies among the many state’s political class — together with elected officers like Hawley. He had a nasty relationship with the GOP-controlled legislature, a physique he derided as “third graders” after a contentious legislative session. A few of his coverage initiatives alienated GOP figures. And plenty of of his detractors discovered him to be profoundly hypocritical: Although he chastised his opponents for counting on “secretive tremendous PACs,” some folks related to him started a politically active nonprofit that attacked sitting Republican legislators — and by no means revealed the funding sources.

“I feel he has burned a variety of bridges,” Hoflander mentioned.

John Lamping is a former state senator who supported Greitens’ gubernatorial bid, however is impartial on this yr’s Senate election. He mentioned Greitens’ estrangement from Missouri’s Republican political class is an enormous driver in attempting to get him out of the race.

“They’re going to say he’ll lose within the normal election — they’re simply attempting to attraction to folks’s feelings,” Lamping mentioned. “The explanation they do not like him is he does not care what they suppose.”

Lamping mentioned a number of the issues Greitens is espousing, together with deposing McConnell as Senate Republican chief and repeating false claims that Trump really received the 2020 election, are in style with GOP voters interested in a “populist” and “nationalist” message.

“They take a look at the 2 events as type of a uni-party — it is a cartel,” Lamping mentioned. “The political class hates him for a similar cause the political class hated Trump earlier than 2016 — and hated him much more as soon as he acquired into workplace. As a result of what they know to be true — and this was confirmed true in Greitens’ case when he was governor — is he will not take heed to the political class.”

The Trump card

Although Missouri is not that far faraway from being a aggressive state for U.S. Senate contests, Trump received the state in 2016 and 2020 by massive margins.

The previous president hasn’t endorsed anyone in Missouri’s Senate race, however is being courted aggressively.

Hawley, as an example, has spoken with Trump often about the contest, whereas the previous president has appeared at a fundraiser for Attorney General Eric Schmitt. And Greitens has acquired help from distinguished folks in Trump’s orbit, together with Bannon, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr.

Former President Trump put out a press release just lately that praised Lengthy, however stopped wanting endorsing him. Lengthy mentioned Trump’s backing might put him in the same scenario as Ohio’s J.D. Vance, who noticed his Senate fortunes rise after an endorsement.

However Lengthy and Greitens have been behind in fundraising to Schmitt and Rep. Vicky Hartzler. (Each Schmitt and Greitens have supporting political motion committees with thousands and thousands of {dollars} to spend.) Most public polls present Greitens, Schmitt and Hartzler because the three top-tier candidates. The remaining, together with Lengthy, are usually within the single digits of a race through which the first winner might prevail with lower than 30% of the vote.

There are different methods the key candidates try to face out.

From left to proper: Rep. Billy Lengthy, R-Mo.; Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; and Missouri Legal professional Basic Eric Schmitt.

Invoice Clark/CQ Roll Name/Getty Photos; Tom Williams/CQ Roll Name/Getty Photos; Jeff Roberson/AP

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Invoice Clark/CQ Roll Name/Getty Photos; Tom Williams/CQ Roll Name/Getty Photos; Jeff Roberson/AP

Hartzler acquired backing of key agricultural teams and top-level Missouri Republican leaders akin to Hawley and former U.S. Sen. Equipment Bond. She’s developed a status for her socially conservative views, and used one of her first TV ads to stake out a place towards transgender ladies taking part in ladies’s sports activities.

Schmitt can also be pointing to his authorized advocacy towards a few of President Biden’s agenda, together with a scuttled vaccine mandate. He is additionally gone after COVID-19 restrictions in schools.

There are additionally two different candidates which can be hoping to achieve momentum: Senate President Dave Schatz, who dropped $2 million of his personal cash into the competition, and lawyer Mark McCloskey, who gained widespread attention in 2020 when he and his spouse brandished weapons as protesters walked by their home.

“I do not just like the drama”

Some attendees of the latest Lincoln Dinner famous that they are much less interested by Greitens’ private drama and extra interested by what the candidates are going to do about urgent considerations — akin to carry inflation beneath management.

“The mudslinging does not actually have an effect on my pocketbook,” mentioned Mark Schroer, who works in Wellington’s municipal authorities. “I wish to know what they are going to do once they get to the U.S. Senate.”

Eric Kolkmeyer, who runs a trucking firm in Odessa, Mo., too is undecided on who he desires to exchange Blunt. He mentioned that he has some “favorites.”

“I do not just like the drama. I would like one of the best candidate,” Kolkmeyer mentioned. “I would like any person who’s issues-driven, that is personally aligned with me values-wise.”

And despite the fact that some candidates like Greitens have castigated so-called insiders, Linda Niendick, who’s Lafayette County’s public administrator, mentioned there’s worth in candidates making a direct pitch to GOP stalwarts like herself.

“If I get to know these candidates, I can speak to those who I do know who have not had an opportunity to fulfill the candidates — and that is how the great message is unfold,” she mentioned.

Missouri GOP voters will make the ultimate name within the crowded race on Aug. 2.

And at the very least two Democratic candidates, Lucas Kunce and Trudy Busch Valentine, have the power to mount well-funded and well-organized campaigns in November.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Sarah Kellogg contributed to this story.


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