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Politics, Elections and Government

Eric Greitens Announces Run For Senate, 3 Years After Resigning As Missouri Governor

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo
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St. Louis Public Radio
Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is making a run for the U.S. Senate. Greitens, seen in this May 2018 file photo walking out of the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis after his felony invasion of privacy charge was dropped, told Fox News host Bret Baier Monday "We've been exonerated and we're moving forward" when asked about the scandals that drove him from office.

Eric Greitens made his U.S. Senate candidacy announcement Monday on Fox News. He seeks to succeed U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who decided not to run for re-election in 2022.

Updated at 7:30 p.m. with announcement details.

After years in the political wilderness caused by a resignation in a torrent of scandal, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens made his return to politics official on Monday when he declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

The move sets up a collision course between the former GOP statewide official and a slew of Republicans who don’t want him to succeed U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

Greitens made his candidacy announcement on FOX News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, where he cited his experience in the military and tenure as governor as points for his candidacy.

“People of Missouri need a fighter in the United States Senate,” Greitens said. “They need someone who’s going to go as I will, as I’m committed to do — to defending President Trump’s America First policies and also protecting the people of Missouri from Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer’s radical leftist agenda.

“We’re excited,” he added. “We’ve got a great grassroots team — and we’re in this race.”

Greitens first burst on the political scene in 2016 when he won the Missouri governorship. He defeated three other candidates in the GOP primary and upended Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in the general election.

But his governorship was decidedly rocky, as he fought with Republicans who controlled the GOP-controlled legislature over a host of issues. And it came apart after it was revealed he had an extramarital affair before he was governor, which opened a Pandora's box of personal and campaign finance related issues over a roughly five month period. He resigned while facing possible impeachment.

In February 2018, Greitens was charged with felony invasion of privacy after he was accused of taking a semi-nude photo of the woman he was having an affair with without her consent. That case fell apart after an investigator St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner hired allegedly made false statements during a deposition. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who then took over the case as a special prosecutor, declined to charge Greitens.

But even after the invasion of privacy case was dropped, Greitens still faced likely impeachment from the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. He had made a myriad of enemies within the Missouri Republican Party, including then-Attorney General Josh Hawley — who turned over evidence to Gardner that resulted in him getting charged with felony computer data tampering related to use of a charity he helped found for political fundraising.

Many key Republican lawmakers called on Greitens to resign after a stunning House investigative report where the woman he had an affair with accused him of sexual and physical abuse. While he denied many of the allegations in the report, the House committee looking into the matter found the woman, who testified under oath, to be credible.

He ultimately stepped down in late May 2018, citing the toll on his family.

Bid ensures crowded primary

During his Fox News interview, Greitens was asked whether the litany of scandals would hurt his ability to win next year. He pointed to how the Missouri Ethics Commission didn’t find he was personally responsible for campaign finance related violations. That investigation did not look into the physical or sexual abuse allegations.

He also said that the investigator Gardner hired, William Tisaby, was charged with a host of felonies associated with his invasion of privacy case.

“We resigned, because at the time it was what I needed to do for the people that I love the most,” said Greitens, when asked why he stepped down when other governors under scrutiny stuck it out. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because I knew that all of these accusations were false. The good news is that the big wave of lies has now crashed on the rock of the facts. And one of the things I know as a boxer is that you can lose a round. But you can still stay in the fight and win the fight.”

Since leaving office, Greitens has started a talk show and appeared on programming with former Trump aides — including Steve Bannon. Some other lumariaries that were close with the former president have touted him as a potential Senate candidate, including former aide Andrew Guliani — the son of Trump attorney Rudy Guliani.

Still, Greitens’ entry into the U.S. Senate has alarmed some Missouri Republicans who feel his scandals will make him easier to beat in a general election.

While Greitens has passionate fans among Missouri Republican voters, he’s also made countless enemies that will likely try to prevent him from becoming a U.S. Senator. That could include Hawley, who has been communicating with Trump about the Senate race and could dissuade the former president from endorsing him.

Trump has also spoken with Blunt, who Greitens criticized earlier this year for not voting to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral college wins in Pennsylvania and Arizona. But Blunt said that Trump would have endorsed him had he run for reelection. When asked if Blunt was trying to dissuade Trump from backing Greitens, he replied: “I’m not going to be publicly building up or denigrating candidates. Let them sort that out themselves.”

“In our state, [Trump’s endorsement] would make a difference in the primary,” Blunt said. “Having his help would have made the primary easy. And I think it’s going to be an easy general election for almost any Republican candidate.”

Other potential candidates in the contest include Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Reps. Jason Smith, Ann Wagner, Billy Long and Vicky Hartzer. Both Smith and Long are personally close with Trump, which could foreclose the possibility of Greitens getting the president’s endorsement.

Among the Democrats who have announced include former state Sen. Scott Sifton, Jefferson City native Lucas Kunce and tech executive Tim Shepard. Other Democrats who are thinking about getting in include Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and state Sen. Brian Williams.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
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