Former governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 after being indicted in connection with two criminal charges that were later dropped, is competing with Missouri Senate candidates over Trump-backed endorsements and funding.
Vying for the open seat that two-term Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) will leave behind, Greitens raised around $27,000 since announcing his run on Mar. 22. He donated around $18,000 himself and roughly $9,300 came from donors. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the only other confirmed Republican candidate so far, announced his bid on Mar. 24 and has not yet reported any fundraising.
Greitens announced on Monday that Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Trump campaign adviser and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, joined his campaign as national chair. The campaign sent emails from Guilfoyle on Tuesday reiterating the news and asking for donations. He has also rallied support from other Trump allies such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn and former Trump senior adviser Steve Cortes.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) is gearing up to hold an event at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida on April 30 that could rake in huge sums for a possible Senate campaign. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson will serve as co-hosts, and invited guests include Trump ally Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), according to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch. Trump invited Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), who is also considering a run, to a different fundraiser at his golf resort later this month. Trump has yet to endorse any candidate.
Democrats who have officially entered the race include Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who has received around $281,000 in campaign contributions. State Sen. Scott Sifton is also running and has raised around $302,000. LGBTQ activist Timothy Shepard has also joined the race but has not yet filed with the FEC.
Greitens has alienated some Republican allies with his past scandals, which include sexual and physical assault allegations and campaign finance violations. According to Politico, some GOP leaders are considering carrying out an advertising campaign against Greitens to thwart him. Members of prominent GOP groups, including the Senate Leadership Fund, are reportedly involved in discussions about how to block Greitens’ path to winning the nomination.
Greitens’ most recent controversy was in 2020. After an 18-month long investigation following a 2018 ethics charge against the former governor’s campaign, it was fined $178,000 in 2020 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for failing to disclose “some in-kind contributions” from the LG PAC and nonprofit A New Missouri during Greitens’ 2016 run. The investigation did not find sufficient evidence on other allegations, including that Greitens’ campaign received and hid “potentially problematic” contributions from SEALS for Truth, which received all of its donations from American Policy Coalition.
Greitens’ campaign was ordered to hand over only $38,000 if paid in 45 days since it was fined, with the rest required only if it broke any more campaign finance laws in the next two years. In a stipulation signed by Greitens and members of the Missouri Ethics Commission, the agency found “no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Eric Greitens, individually,” but also stated that “candidates are ultimately responsible for all reporting requirements.” After the report was released, Greitens tweeted, “We’ve been completely exonerated.”
Outside of the ethics case, numerous other scandals tarnish Greitens’ political career. In April 2018, Greitens’ former hairdresser testified to a Missouri legislative committee that he assaulted and blackmailed her in 2015. He was indicted for invasion of privacy related to the blackmail accusation, but the case was ultimately dropped. Around that time, Greitens was also indicted on a computer-tampering charge of directing a donor list from his military veteran charity, The Mission Continues, to his campaign.
Facing possible impeachment, Greitens eventually stepped down as governor in June 2018 after reaching a deal with St. Louis prosecutors that the computer tampering charge would be dropped in exchange for his resignation. After leaving office, Greitens returned to the Navy, where he previously served as a SEAL officer.
Despite the scandals, Greitens led an internal survey conducted by Trump pollsters in March with 48 percent support, 40 points more than Schmitt’s 11 percent. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo,), also rumored to run, trails behind at 9 percent while Smith received 7 percent support. Yet, Trump’s advisors say it is unlikely he will endorse Greitens, especially if another ally enters the race. Hawley, a close Trump ally who called on Greitens to resign at the height of his controversies, will likely pose a challenge to the former governor as Trump’s advisor on the Missouri race. Some of Greitens’ previous supporters, including those who bankrolled his prior campaigns, are also not expected to help him this time around.
Missouri has leaned red in recent years, with Trump winning the state in 2020 by around 15 percentage points. The state currently has two Republican senators, six Republican representatives and only two Democratic representatives. Blunt, currently serving with Sen. Josh Hawley as the other senator, is a two-term senator first elected in 2010. He is the fifth Republican senator to publicly state he will not be running for re-election in 2022, joining Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)
Democrats considering a run include Quinton Lucas, a former Kansas City mayor; Brian Williams, a St. Louis County state senator; Elad Gross, who unsuccessfully ran for state attorney general in 2020; and former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. Former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander have said they will not run.
On the Republican side, GOP members considering a run include Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, according to The Hill. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) has also said she is considering a run.
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