Trudy Busch Valentine wins Missouri Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate
The nurse and beer heiress held off Lucas Kunce, who was in the race longer and raised more money.
Trudy Busch Valentine entered the race late, but aided by her family’s name recognition and wealth, rode to victory in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
The nurse and an heir to the Anheuser-Busch fortune won the nomination with 43% of the vote in nearly complete totals reported Tuesday night. Her main competition was Marine veteran and current think tank employee Lucas Kunce of Independence. He received 38% of the vote.
“You believed in me and my vision for a kinder, stronger Missouri,” Busch Valentine said, speaking to supporters after her victory. “And after hundreds of career politicians, it’s time for a nurse in the Senate.”
Kunce entered the race early and raised more money than any other candidate in either major party. According to the website opensecrets.org, more than half of the $4.6 million he raised came from small donors who gave less than $200.
“You built a real movement. Nobody knew who I was. Nobody who knew who we were,” Kunce said during a concession speech in Independence. “Nobody thought we had a chance, and we did it. We did a great job. We didn't win, but it's a miracle what we did.”
Busch Valentine entered the race on the last day of filing, and 88% of her $3.4 million campaign fund came from her own money. Less than 3% came from small donors.
Busch Valentine’s supporters included St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, who endorsed her last week. Kunce received support from Democratic stars including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Kunce the day before the election.
Both candidates were also able to garner support from each other’s geographic base. Busch Valentine, based in the St. Louis area, received the endorsement of Kansas City Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, while Kunce, whose base is in the Kansas City area, picked up support from St. Louis-area politicians including St. Louis County Councilwomen Rita Days and Shalonda Webb.
Kunce and Busch Valentine had similar positions on the core issues important to Democratic voters. They both support abortion rights, protecting voting rights and increased gun control measures.
Busch Valentine said she wants to address issues that affect all Missourians.
“That means lowering inflation and bringing down the cost of basic necessities, making sure everyone can be seen by a doctor, and working to end the opioid epidemic that has devastated our communities,” she said.
Kunce made tougher restrictions and penalties on members of Congress who trade stock while in office a main plank of his campaign.
“If you're going to be a member of Congress, there should be some amount of sacrifice there,” Kunce said on St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking. “If you can't get by on the salary, then that's too bad.”
Busch Valentine declined to appear on an episode of the podcast.
Both candidates, or at least their supporters, became critical of each other, especially late in the contest.
Busch Valentine was criticized for being an out-of-touch millionaire, her unwillingness to debate Kunce and her participation in the 1977 Veiled Prophet Ball, an event that has been accused of being run by racists in St. Louis leadership. She has apologized for her participation.
Kunce was criticized for comments he made during a 2006 run for the Missouri House that were perceived to be anti-LGBTQ and for being a candidate mostly funded by interests outside of Missouri.
Busch Valentine will face Republican Eric Schmitt and independent John Wood in the general election in the fall.
Busch Valentine said the presence of a third-party candidate will help her.
“I think it will mix up the votes a little bit on the Republican side,” she said.
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