Trudy Busch Valentine won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri on Tuesday night, riding a campaign focused on restoring political respect and civility to victory over a self-described “populist” rival.
An heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune worth up to $215 million and a philanthropist, Busch Valentine was a last-minute entrant to the race but gained immediate momentum through a raft of primarily self-funded TV ads and endorsements from elected Democrats past and present.
She defeated U.S. Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who ran a “populist” campaign criticizing corporations and “elites,” including Busch Valentine. She’ll face Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the Republican nominee, and conservative independent candidate John Wood in the November general election.
“Whether you vote for me or not — in the Senate I will work hard every day for you,” Busch Valentine said in a statement Tuesday night. “I’m going to approach politics the same way I approached nursing and my life. I’m going to treat others with compassion, respect, and integrity. I’m going to put our differences aside and embrace what unites us. I’m going to do what every public servant should do — serve the people they represent and reach across the party aisle so we can all work together.”
A registered nurse in Missouri, Busch Valentine asked voters to send her to the U.S. Senate while calling for “integrity and honesty and respect” in Washington. She was inspired to enter the race, she said, by two tragedies in her family — the death of her younger sister from a car accident when she was a teen and her son’s death in 2020 from an opioid overdose — and to safeguard the future of her family, which includes six children and three grandchildren.
Busch Valentine has called for the end of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, enshrining the right to an abortion in federal law, advancing more stringent gun safety measures and protection of voting rights. But she came under fire in the final weeks of the campaign for wavering answers on LGBTQ+ rights and education, as well as needing clarification on the landmark campaign finance Supreme Court decision Citizens United.
Her entrance into the race came just before the deadline to file for candidacy, and prompted former state Sen. Scott Sifton to immediately drop out and endorse her. In the months that followed, she was backed by a number of Democratic state lawmakers as well as other prominent officials including St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.
She also attracted immediate criticism from the left-wing online publication The Intercept, which reported her attendance and prominent role at an all-white gala for the secretive Veiled Prophet Organization in 1977. Later reporting from The Intercept in May revealed a planned fundraiser from the National Rifle Association at Grant’s Farm, the Busch family’s property. The family’s total wealth was estimated by Forbes magazine in 2020 to be $17.6 billion, among the largest fortunes in the United States.
Busch Valentine apologized for her role in the Veiled Prophet ball, saying she “failed to fully grasp the situation.” She also said she persuaded the board of Grant’s Farm to cancel the planned fundraiser, saying “you can always count on me to stand up to the gun lobby.”
Kunce’s failed bid for the nomination featured frequent national cable news appearances and sweeping criticisms of government and institutions. He advocated for a ban on members of Congress trading stocks; for returning investment and manufacturing to the U.S. through a “Marshall Plan for the Midwest”; and for the abolition of corporate PACs influencing politics. Kunce earned the endorsement Monday of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the two-time progressive presidential candidate who has similarly called for broad action against corporations and existing institutions.
He contrasted himself to Busch Valentine by showing in advertisements the abandoned Jefferson City home he grew up, talking about his family that went bankrupt due to a flood of expensive hospital bills. He’s referenced his time on tour in the Middle East when speaking about domestic issues — calling abortion bans the work of “Big Brother governments” like in “Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“Thank you for fighting,” Kunce wrote on Twitter after the race was called. ”Never stop.”
Spencer Toder, a St. Louis entrepreneur who focused on grassroots service and Democratic infrastructure in his campaign, earned fervent support online but failed to garner significant support in the final outcome. He earned under 5 percent of the vote.