Schmitt, Kunce host Columbia rallies amid U.S. Senate primary races – KOMU 8

Schmitt, Kunce host Columbia rallies amid U.S. Senate primary races – KOMU 8

Currently in Columbia

Republican Eric Schmitt held a rally at Tropical Liqueurs South, while Democrat Lucas Kunce held one at Stephens Lake Park, less than a week out from the Aug. 2 primary election.
COLUMBIA — A pair of hopeful nominees for Roy Blunt’s up-for-grabs U.S. Senate seat held separate rallies Wednesday night.
Republican and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt held a rally at Tropical Liqueurs South, while Democrat and former marine Lucas Kunce held one at Stephens Lake Park, less than a week out from the Aug. 2 primary election.
Schmitt is vying for the Republican nomination alongside current U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO 4th District) and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Schmitt said Hartzler is “weak,” while Greitens is “a quitter.”
“A lot of the other candidates will talk about a lot of things, but the difference is I’ve actually taken action,” Schmitt said. “We’ve been fighting and winning against the Biden administration, against COVID tyranny. I think people see that as the race has gotten more dynamic, and people are starting to see people’s records as opposed to just name ID from a few months ago.”
WATCH: "I think our country's at stake" – @AGEricSchmitt spoke at Tropical Liquers in Columbia Wednesday, sharing why he's running for a U.S. Senate seat. He discussed a possible endorsement from former president Donald Trump & the current state of the Republican race.@KOMUnews pic.twitter.com/yEj4se4hZB
Meanwhile, Kunce’s primary opposition comes from Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune. Her campaign is running advertisements that pin Kunce as anti-LGBTQ, anti-marijuana legalization and anti-abortion rights.
“It’s all fake, right? I mean, the things that they say,” Kunce said, “they say I’m against gay marriage. I have the queerest team that Missouri has ever seen before… they say I’m against Planned Parenthood. I’m endorsed by Pro-Choice Missouri. They say I’m against marijuana. I’m the only candidate who said that I think we should have a federal legalization of marijuana. It’s all lies. This is what the billionaire class does. They tried to hold back everyday Missourians, everyday people so that we never have power.”
WATCH: "The only people I want to owe are the people who took care of me." – @LucasKunceMO held a rally at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia on Wednesday, sharing why he believes he can flip the open U.S. Senate seat in Missouri with his zero PAC money commitment.@KOMUnews pic.twitter.com/oDMtYtGKL7
Reporting from Joplin radio station KZRG’s Ted Bojorquez details an ongoing ceast-and-desist battle between Kunce’s campaign and Busch Valentine’s over the advertisements.
According to an Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey published Tuesday, Schmitt is the frontrunner in the Republican nomination race with an estimated 32% of the projected vote, while Hartzler and Greitens are projected to receive 21% and 16% of the vote, respectively. 
Greitens’ support appears to be tumbling in lieu of increased ad spending by the Show Me Values PAC, which has spent almost $8 million according to OpenSecrets.org. The ads target his campaign regarding domestic abuse claims made against Greitens amid an ongoing child custody lawsuit with his ex-wife, Sheena.
“I’m glad he’s above Greitens, for sure,” Randall Kleindienst, Callaway County Eastern District Commissioner, said. “But I’m also proud of the job [Schmitt] is doing on a lot of the topics that have come up, he has been a fairly aggressive leader in our state, and I think doing the right thing.”
Kleindienst attended Schmitt’s rally with his wife, Christine, who is the recorder for Callaway County. Randall said he specifically supported Schmitt’s efforts to prevent mask mandates in school districts across the state, noting that he stopped a mask mandate proposal in Callaway County because “the government does not have the right to tell you what you have to wear.”
Schmitt said that he’d be concerned for the Republican advantage in Missouri’s two Senate seats if Greitens earned the nomination.
“He’s gonna lose this seat,” Schmitt said about Greitens. “It’s a 50-50 Senate, you know, this is the big leagues. And Eric Greitens trying to you know, revive his reputation in the Senate run is ridiculous. And I think voters are recognizing that the seat’s too important. I think that’s one of the other reasons why we’re going to win.”
But it wasn’t just supporters attending Schmitt’s rally: one Columbia resident, Denise Gelina, said she hoped to ask about his commitment to public schools.
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“I feel that Eric Schmitt, he avoids all the debates,” Gelina said, “and he needs to answer to his constituents, his behavior suing public education the last few years over the mask mandates, while Missouri ranks 49th in teacher pay. Additionally, he needs to answer for the lawsuits that he’s been helping push through, to push charter schools through the state of Missouri, leaving large masses of students without proper education.”
Gelina argued that the mandates protected children and hopes that whoever wins the Senate seat will address the “underfunded” public school system and increase teacher pay. Missouri is instituting a $38,000 minimum salary for all teachers starting this year.
Schmitt also noted that he’s aware of former president Donald Trump’s interest in the race, adding that he’s hopeful for his endorsement. Schmitt also said that he would not support Mitch McConnell (R-KY) if he were to rerun for a position as a Republican Senate leader.
“Mitch McConnell was elected to the Senate in ’95,” Schmitt said. “I think the party’s priorities have changed pretty dramatically, and I don’t think he’s kept up with that. I think that most recently evidenced by the disastrous infrastructure bill, I was vocal about not supporting that. This gun confiscation law, the red flag law, I don’t support that. And so, you know, I’ve been endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), I’d love to see one of them run. I would support that. Mitch McConnell hasn’t endorsed me, and I don’t endorse him for leadership.”
On the Democratic side, the same Emerson College Polling/The Hill study reported that Busch Valentine is narrowly above Kunce with 39% of people surveyed supporting her, and 35% backing him. The study also reports 22% of those surveyed are undecided and that Busch Valentine led Kunce among undecided voters when asked who they would prefer to win.
One Columbia resident, Gabby Galarza, who attended Kunce’s rally as an undecided voter, said he’s earned her vote with his support of abortion rights and renewable energy investments within the U.S.
Kunce’s criticism of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also resonated with Galarza.
“I have a military family, and so I relate to that story,” Galarza said. “And I have heard a lot of the similar things with, you know, thinking that you have this narrative in your mind about what you’re doing for your country when it’s really protecting these assets that don’t even matter and are just so wasteful… it’s really hard to see people who back that so heavily. And you know, do it with so much heart because these people do give their lives for this career, when it is doing nothing that they were promised. And it’s really hard to hear that and you know, it’s devastating when I have people in that situation now, and it’s like a false narrative that they’re sold when it’s really just protecting billionaire assets.”
Three future college students who support Kunce traveled all the way from the St. Louis area to hear the Democrat speak in Columbia today. They all said that his upbringing equips him with the ability to keep in touch with all Missourians and to address the issues that affect them.
“He talks a lot about growing up paycheck to paycheck,” Santi Lugo, a St. Louis resident, said. “His family went bankrupt when his sister needed a heart surgery, and I just think that lived-on experience of knowing the policies, like Medicare-for-All or universal health care, come from an actual point of experience, actually knowing what the majority of people in our communities go through and suffer. And I think that a lot of politicians in Congress currently are out of touch with the current needs of communities.”
They also expressed support for Kunce’s policy platform, which they say better reflects the issues Missourians face daily rather than what the Democratic Party focuses on nationally.
“One of the big ones is about his campaign against big agriculture,” San Kumar, a St. Louis resident, said. “Missouri is a huge farming state, and I think it’s important to note that corporate agriculture is ruining it. He wants to bring back local businesses, local communities that can stick together.”
“Big Ag came into our state, they teamed up with Wall Street to literally just destroy all of our small farmers and strip our communities for parts,” Kunce said. And now, it’s like there’s this great, big vacuum cleaner over Missouri, because where these small-town farmers are, they used to buy their feed locally, their equipment locally. They would keep the wealth of the land, some of the richest land in the world like right here in Missouri, in Missouri.
“Now, these big companies, they suck the wealth out, they don’t buy anything locally, and then they sell themselves to foreign entities, right? Smithfield is owned in China, JBS is a Brazilian conglomerate, and even Monsanto is owned in Germany. So the wealth in Missouri is sucked out… I’m going to support the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Packers and Stockyards Act. I’m going to fight things like the National Animal Identification System and things like that, that hurt small farmers and hook up Big Ag.” 
Although the deadline to vote absentee by mail has passed, people can vote absentee through Aug. 1 or vote in-person at their designated polling locations on Aug. 2.
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