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Beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine joins Missouri Democratic primary for Senate; Sifton drops

 St. Louis beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine joined the race for Missouri's U.S. Senate seat Monday.
Trudy Busch Valentine Campaign
St. Louis beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine joined the race for Missouri's U.S. Senate seat Monday.

Beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine entered the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate on Monday, giving the party a candidate who could potentially match Republican spending this year out of her own pocket.

In a three-minute video announcing her campaign, Valentine says she is entering the race to bridge divisive politics but provides no specifics on issues facing the nation.

“It seems we have lost our ability to be understanding and compassionate for each other,” Valentine said. “We have so much more that unites us than divides us.”

Valentine, a registered nurse, is a member of the family that owned a majority stake in Anheuser-Busch until it was sold to InBev in 2008 for $52 billion. Forbes magazine in 2020 listed the family’s wealth at $17.6 billion, the 16th largest family fortune in the nation.

How much of that is her personal wealth is uncertain.

The campaign will be Valentine’s first run for public office, although she is well-known in Democratic political circles. According to data from the Federal Election Commission, Valentine contributed $116,000 to Democratic party and candidate committees from 2015 through 2020. And in 2016, Valentine hosted a fundraiser at Grant’s Farm, the Busch family estate, for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Valentine’s entry brought the exit of one candidate, former state Sen. Scott Sifton, and has the potential to energize the Democratic primary for the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican. Since Blunt announced last year that he would not seek a third term, much of the attention has focused on the Republican primary contest.

Filing closes at 5 p.m. Tuesday for the Aug. 2 primary. As of Monday afternoon, there were 19 Republicans filed for the Senate, including six that are registering in polls, with Attorney General Eric Schmitt, former Gov. Eric Greitens and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler taking the top spots in most surveys.

With Sifton’s withdrawal, there are 11 candidates for the Democratic nomination.

In a press release explaining his withdrawal, Sifton said he was endorsing Valentine as the candidate most likely to put the seat in Democratic hands for the first time since 1986.

Sifton was one of the earliest Democratic entrants in the race but his fundraising has been anemic. In the most recent filing, he reported raising just under $900,000, or about one-third what the leading fundraiser, Lucas Kunce, had brought in.

“A poll just two weeks ago showed me dead even with Republican front-runner Eric Greitens,” Sifton said. “And that was all before the outrageous and sickening new revelations concerning Greitens came to light early last week. But as Democrats, we need to be united. Eric Greitens simply cannot be our next senator, and I know that Trudy Busch Valentine gives us the best chance to win in November.”

In a court filing in a child custody case, Sheena Greitens, who divorced Eric Greitens in 2020, accused him of being physically and emotionally abusive to her and their children.

Democrats have had a difficult time in Missouri over the past decade, winning just one statewide contest since 2012. For much of 2021, some party members hoped former Gov. Jay Nixon, out of office since 2017, would jump into the race.

Valentine is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., who died in 1989. Her mother, Gertrude Busch, was Busch’s third wife. She was born in 1957 and grew up on Grant’s Farm, the 281-acre family estate in St. Louis County.

She is a registered nurse who has worked extensively with children and in 2017 received the Ranken Jordan Service to Children Award from Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in Maryland Heights. In 2019, the St. Louis University School of Nursing was named for her after she contributed $4 million to the school. She graduated from the school in 1980.

Valentine was not available for an interview Tuesday morning.

In her announcement video, Valentine highlighted the 2002 death of her husband, attorney John Valentine, and 2020 death of her son, Matthew Valentine, to show that she understands loss and the need for stronger health care.

“Twenty months ago my oldest son died of an opioid overdose,” Valentine said. “Matt’s death brought so much sadness but it also reignited the passion in me to make a positive difference for others, this time on a larger scale.”

This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.
Trudy Busch Valentine is one of St. Louis Public Radio's financial contributors.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and state legislature as the Deputy Editor at The Missouri Independent.