JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The crowded GOP primary for the U. Senate race has largely played out thus far on social media, gatherings at party functions, and on the fundraising circuit.
But on Tuesday, candidates passed through the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center here just a stone’s throw from the State Capitol building here in Jefferson City to officially enter the race to succeed Roy Blunt in Washington, D.C.
It didn’t take long for candidates to take aim at Eric Greitens, the former Missouri Governor who resigned in 2018 amid legal and ethical scandal and is attempting a comeback in the Senate. As one of only two candidates in the race to have run and won statewide, he has name recognition, and he has the support of a wide array of figures connected to former President Donald Trump, if not Trump’s own endorsement. National Republicans, have worried that if Greitens wins the nomination, he’d put the seat at risk in a general election.
When asked how the Greitens of today is different to Missouri voters than he was in 2018, he wasn’t specific Tuesday, and instead said he’d seen “the enemy”, pointing to Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office’s prosecution of his case, liberal philanthropist George Soros, the mainstream media and Republican establishment leaders. He claimed exoneration from the 2018 investigation. He described Tuesday as a “joyous” day saying “God hands you pain that you don’t want and there’s wisdom on the other side.”
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is also seeking the nomination said Tuesday “it’s not conservative if you tie a woman up in your basement and assault her and to bring shame and disgrace on our state, and he did. Missouri deserves better.” Hartzler said pointedly that Greitens is the only Republican candidate she would not support in a general election if he wins the party’s nomination.
Missouri Senator Pro Tem Dave Schatz, a relatively late entrant into the primary race who announced in November, said defeating Greitens was why he’s in the race now. “Governor Greitens was unfit. I served in the legislature when he served as Governor. he was unfit to serve then, he’s unfit to serve now and that’s why I’m in this race.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said questions remain from the previous investigation, using the word “quit” several times when referring to Greitens. “We need reinforcements in Washington DC right now that are tough fighters that are never going to quit on the state.”
One candidate in the race who shows no sign of quitting is U.S. Rep. Billy Long, who said he is sticking to his pledge to only serve six terms in the House, despite attempts by others, including Trump, to persuade him otherwise.