Beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine captures Missouri Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate
U.S. Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine joined hundreds of demonstrators at the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis on June 24, 2022, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Rebecca Rivas/The Missouri Independent)
Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine won the Democratic nomination for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, defeating her closest rival, former Marine Lucas Kunce.

The Associated Press called the race shortly after 10 p.m.

Throughout her campaign, Valentine has said working as a nurse and experiencing immense grief from family tragedies have both taught her how to listen to people’s needs and to be of service.

“I thought, ‘Could I do this?” said Valentine told The Independent in June. “And then my life kind of just went in front of me, and I felt maybe all these times and things throughout my life that really affected me deeply… maybe they’re the exact reason that I can make a difference in a crazy political system.

Valentine entered the race for U.S. Senate in March, becoming one of 11 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. Like Valentine, the other Democratic candidates have never held public office before. However, both Kunce and Toder launched their campaigns more than a year ago.

“It speaks to her strength as a candidate that she was able to come in and coalesce huge amounts of support really quickly,” said Jack Seigel, a former political staffer and St. Louis County resident. “That’s impressive.”

Valentine, a mother of six children and a nurse, is a member of the family that owned a majority stake in Anheuser-Busch until the brewing company 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.

She told The Independent this spring that she felt drawn to do whatever she could to fight the opioid epidemic and improve access to quality healthcare, following her son’s death in 2020 from an opioid overdose.

In addition to her son’s passing, Valentine said she was also inspired to enter politics out of a desire to speak up for women’s rights. In June, Valentine released a 17-point plan for “Strengthening the Middle Class,” which includes raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding options for affordable housing and lowering the cost of medications.

Valentine’s first major policy proposal, released in May, focused on helping drug addicts recover by using leverage in the federal payments for Medicaid to increase rates to providers, quicker access to treatment and expanded use of telehealth.

In the campaign’s homestretch, she earned scorn from some in her party’s base after fumbling answers on LGBTQ rights, campaign finance and critical race theory. She also drew criticism for her refusal to debate her Democratic rivals.

But in the end, support from Democratic leaders — such as St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver — and her willingness to spend her family fortune to capture the seat carried her to victory.

Justin Idleburg, a racial equity consultant in St. Louis, attended Valentine’s election watch party at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Union Hall in St. Louis. He decided to support Valentine, he said, because her experience as a nurse makes her a better fit to address the healing his community needs.

“We need a healer,” Idleburg said. “And nothing against the men but when a child gets hurt, they go automatically to their mother or the grandmother. And she’s a nurse who has a history of helping everyone.”

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.