Busch beer heiress enters Missouri US Senate race

Associated Press

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Kunce's first name.

Jefferson City, Mo. – Anheuser-Busch beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine on Tuesday announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate, shaking up what has been a low-profile Democratic primary in a solidly red state.

Busch Valentine’s announcement comes amid widespread calls from Republicans for Eric Greitens to drop out of the race after the Republican former governor’s ex-wife accused him of physically abusing her and one of their kids.

This May 5, 2021 photo shows Trudy Busch Valentine.

The latest scandal renewed Republican concerns that Greitens could win the crowded GOP primary but emerge a damaged candidate in the general election, threatening the party’s chances of keeping what should be a relatively easy win for Republicans.

Some Democrats already are positioning the race as everyone else versus Greitens. In a Monday announcement dropping out of the Democratic primary, former state Sen. Scott Sifton endorsed Busch Valentine and called on other Democrats to unite behind her.

“Eric Greitens simply cannot be our next senator, and I know that Trudy Busch Valentine gives us the best chance to win in November,” Sifton said.

Busch Valentine, who has a nursing degree, described herself as still being a “nurse at heart” in her campaign announcement. Her oldest son died of an opioid overdose in 2020.

Other Democratic contenders include Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, St. Louis County startup owner Spencer Toder, Kansas City activist Tim Shepard and Air Force veteran Jewel Kelly.

Kunce, considered the Democratic frontrunner, had raised the most of any Missouri Senate candidate as of the end of last year. His campaign on Tuesday painted him as the outsider candidate and took a dig at Busch Valentine’s inherited wealth.

“Missouri deserves a warrior for working people, a proven patriot who’s served his country, who has the courage to stand up to criminal politicians, corrupt elites running massive multinational corporations, and billionaire heiresses who have been stripping our communities for parts,” Kunce campaign spokesman Connor Lounsbury said in a statement. “Lucas Kunce is that warrior.”

Busch Valentine, daughter of the late chairman of the Anheuser-Busch Companies, described herself as an independent candidate open to talking to people with different viewpoints, although she didn’t go into much detail on her political agenda.

“Most Missouri families include Democrats, Independents and Republicans. Mine sure does,” Busch Valentine said. “But it seems we’ve lost our ability to be understanding and compassionate for each other. We have so much more that unites us than divides us. We just need to talk to each other again.”

One of her siblings, August Busch III, donated to Greitens’ 2016 gubernatorial campaign, although he also gave to other Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Busch Valentine has raised money for Democrats and hosted a fundraiser for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2015. She gave $5,400 directly to Clinton’s 2016 campaign and another $33,400 to a pro-Clinton political action committee.

Busch Valentine also has contributed to Democrats Jason Kander and former Sen. Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate campaigns, Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner’s most recent two Democratic opponents for her suburban St. Louis seat, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Outside of politics, Busch Valentine has donated at least $7 million to Saint Louis University, including a $4 million contribution in 2019 that prompted college leaders to rename the nursing school after her. She graduated from the nursing school in 1980 and currently serves on the Saint Louis University board of trustees.