© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Government, Politics & Issues

Attorney General Eric Schmitt Jumps Into Missouri U.S. Senate Race

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks with reporters following Gov. Mike Parson's State of the State address.
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, shown at the Capitol in 2019, officially joined the 2022 U.S. Senate contest on Wednesday.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt made his U.S. Senate bid official on Wednesday, ensuring that there will be a competitive, and perhaps contentious, Republican primary to succeed U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

Schmitt made his Senate announcement on TV's "Fox & Friends," touting his tenure as Missouri’s attorney general and as a critic of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“And so, Washington, D.C., needs more fighters, needs more reinforcements to save America,” Schmitt said. “And after a lot of reflection, support from folks back home and support from the people of Missouri, I’m announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate.”

A native of St. Ann, Schmitt was a member of the Glendale Board of Aldermen before winning election in 2008 to the Missouri Senate. He served in that chamber for eight years, championing policies including mandating insurance companies to cover autism therapies. Schmitt was also the sponsor of 2015 legislation that cut the percentage of traffic fine revenue that cities could keep in their budgets, which was largely seen as a response to Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson.

After mulling over running for attorney general, Schmitt instead ran for state treasurer in 2016, easily defeating Democrat Judy Baker. He was appointed to the attorney general’s office after Josh Hawley won election to the U.S. Senate and subsequently won a full term in 2020 over Democrat Rich Finneran.

Since his victory last year, Schmitt has been particularly aggressive in touting his opposition to Biden’s agenda. He’s recently filed lawsuits over some of the Democratic president’s executive orders. And his office handled an amicus brief in an unsuccessful lawsuit that sought to deprive Biden of his Electoral College victory.

“And all the levers of power right now in Washington, D.C., are tilted toward the Democrats,” Schmitt said during his Fox News appearance. “And so as attorney general, I’ve spent my time defending President Trump and the America First agenda and all the prosperity that came with that.”

Gov. Eric Greitens walks away from reporters after making a statement outside the Circuit Court building. May 14, 2018
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
Former Gov. Eric Greitens, shown in 2018, also is running for the U.S. Senate.

Collision course

Schmitt’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate puts him on a collision course with former Gov. Eric Greitens, who announced his own political comeback on Monday. Since that time, Greitens has touted endorsements from people close with Trump — including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

But many Missouri Republicans are alarmed about Greitens’ candidacy, contending that the scandals that prompted him to resign will make it easier for a Democrat to win the seat next year. And Greitens has made many political enemies who may seek to deprive him of Trump's endorsement, including Hawley. He told reporters Tuesday that he did not take back his 2018 call for Greitens to step down.

Hawley and Blunt aren’t the only people who have been talking with Trump about the U.S. Senate contest. Jeff Roe, a Missouri-born political consultant who has worked for Schmitt and Missouri members of Congress, reportedly flew to Mar-a-Lago recently to talk with Trump about the race.

Besides Schmitt and Greitens, U.S. Reps. Jason Smith, Ann Wagner, Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler are seriously considering running to succeed Blunt. Other potential candidates include state Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison and retired businessman John Brunner. Brunner posted a photo of himself with Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday with the caption: “Does Rand Paul need another freedom fighter in the US Senate?”

Meanwhile, at least three Democrats — former state Sen. Scott Sifton, Jefferson City native Lucas Kunce and tech executive Tim Shepard — are running for the Senate. While students at Truman State University, Sifton and Schmitt were both officers in student government.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.