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GOP candidate Schmitt not showing up for Senate debate in Missouri

LAKE OZARK, Mo. (AP) — Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine has called for compassion for immigrants, criticized the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade and insisted on the need to tackle climate change during a candidates’ forum before a gathering of reporters on Friday – a notable one for the absence of the undisputed race leader.

Valentine, a Democrat, spoke in Lake Ozark at the forum sponsored by the Missouri Press Association. She was joined by Constitution Party candidate Paul Venable and Libertarian Jonathan Dine, but not Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Valentine, 65, is a philanthropist and retired nurse. She is also the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., the longtime chairman and CEO of Anheuser-Busch who built the family business into the world’s largest brewery. Gussie Busch died in 1989 and the brewery was sold to InBev in 2008.

Schmitt has, in press releases, referred to Valentine as “the heiress” and has been digging into her family’s wealth. Valentine did not back down on Friday.

“I grew up in a family that lived the American dream, and I’m very grateful to my parents for many reasons, but especially because they taught me that, to whom you give a lot, you expect a lot” , said Valentine. “And that’s been my life.

Valentine was a late starter in the Democratic primary but narrowly beat Marines veteran Lucas Kunce last month. Its overriding message is a commitment to set aside partisanship and bring decency to the office.

At Friday’s forum, Valentine criticized politicians who have “kicked the road” to find a solution to immigration issues. She noted that her family farm runs on solar power and called climate change “one of the greatest threats facing our country and our world.” And she said the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion was “based on politics, not the law of the land and what’s been there for 50 years.”

A question on the issue of abortion tripped up. Valentine seemed unsure when asked if she supported a federal bill creating abortion rights, first saying she did, then later saying, “I don’t support any kind of legislation. except Roe’s discount. against Wade. It was apparently a slip of the tongue from Valentine, a proponent of abortion rights.

Valentine also appeared confused on a question regarding a pending Supreme Court case on whether state courts, when finding violations of state constitutions, can order changes to federal elections and reshuffling a times per decade of congressional districts.

When asked for his thoughts on the matter, Valentine seemed to address voting access instead.

“I think we need the same rules all over America about our ability to vote,” she said. “And I think it has to be a fair vote, and everyone who is eligible has to vote.”

Schmitt, the 47-year-old Missouri attorney general, is the first major-party candidate for the U.S. Senate or governor to decline to participate in the press association’s candidate forums in two decades.

In September 2000, then governor. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, skipped the MPA’s U.S. Senate candidates forum in St. Louis. The forum went as planned with Republican candidate John Ashcroft and two others.

With Election Day a month and a half away, many leadership contenders — often Republicans — are abandoning the age-old tradition of debate. For some, this reduces the risk of an awkward moment. Others simply snub a media ecosystem they find elitist and mold themselves into the mold of former President Donald Trump, who pretended to miss some primary debates during the 2016 campaign.

Schmitt’s campaign did not directly explain why he skipped the MPA debate, but said he had agreed to a debate next month that would air statewide on Nexstar Media-owned TV stations. Group, but Valentine didn’t.

“The people of Missouri deserve a primetime, statewide, televised debate with the two leading candidates on the same stage,” Schmitt spokesman Rich Chrismer said in a statement.

Recent history suggests that Schmitt’s failure to show up at the MPA forum won’t matter much.

Missouri, once a swing state, has become staunchly Republican over the past two decades. Auditor Nicole Galloway is the only Democrat elected to a statewide position.

Schmitt’s victory in the August primary eased fears among party leaders who feared that a primary victory for former Gov. Eric Greitens could open the door to a Democratic victory in November. Greitens was seeking a political comeback after stepping down as governor amid a sex scandal and campaign finance investigations in 2018, just a year and a half into his first term.

In the end, Schmitt won easily. Greitens was a distant third.

Schmitt got another break last month when independent candidate John Wood dropped out. Wood is a former American lawyer and a Republican. He had significant financial backing from retired Sen. John Danforth, who criticized vitriol among GOP candidates, including Schmitt.

Republican incumbent United States Senator Roy Blunt announced last year that he would not seek a third term.


AP reporter David A. Lieb in Lake Ozark contributed to this report.

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