Disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, forced to resign in 2018 under an avalanche of scandals and felony charges, announced Monday evening that he will run for the U.S. Senate.
The announcement, which Greitens made during an appearance on Fox News, came as little surprise. He had been publicly discussing entering the race for weeks, and behind the scenes had been putting together a campaign team.
His campaign website went live shortly after the interview.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, is the first high-profile Republican to enter the race to replace U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who announced two weeks ago that he would not seek a third term.
“I have been so encouraged by the people of Missouri that I’m happy to announce tonight that I am running for the United States Senate to continue serving the people of Missouri,” Greitens said.
The list of scandals that forced Greitens from the Missouri Governor’s Office in 2018 is long and varied.
He was accused of violent sexual misconduct during a 2015 affair, including allegations he led a woman down to his basement, taped her hands to pull-up rings, blindfolded her, spit water into her mouth, ripped open her shirt, pulled down her pants and took a photo without her consent.
The felony charge that stemmed from that allegation was eventually dropped by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who cited statutes of limitation that had or were about to pass and potentially missing evidence.
He was accused of stealing a donor list from a veteran’s charity he founded in order to boost his political career — a felony charge that was dropped as part of a plea deal that stipulated prosecutors had “sufficient evidence” to bring his case to trial.
Before his resignation, the Republican-dominated Missouri General Assembly was set to impeach him and remove him from office. An ethics complaint filed by the lawmaker who led the impeachment effort resulted in one of the largest fines in the history of the Missouri Ethics Commission — a $178,000 hit to Greitens’ campaign committee for violating state law.
The ethics commission concluded, however, that there was no evidence Greitens was involved in the wrongdoing.
Greitens hoped to return to the Navy following his resignation. But neither the Navy, nor the elite Navy SEALs, wanted him back. It was only after intervention from the vice president’s office that Greitens was allowed to return to the Navy as a reservist.
He and his wife announced they were getting divorced last May.
Over the last year, Greitens has worked to repair his image, arguing that he was exonerated in interviews with conservative media and on his own talk show running on a fledgling news channel. He usually compares his plight to that of former President Donald Trump, calling his prosecution and near impeachment a “witch hunt” and decrying the political insiders he blames for his downfall.
He continued that argument Monday evening, saying on Fox News about his history of scandals, “We’ve been exonerated and we’re moving forward.”
Many within the Missouri Republican Party have expressed alarm at the idea of a Greitens comeback and its potential impact on the state and party.
With nearly every prominent Republican in Missouri openly considering joining the race, Greitens’ critics fear a splintered primary will allow the former governor to win the GOP nomination in 2022 with just a sliver of the vote — potentially putting a safe Republican Senate seat in jeopardy.
“The people of Missouri need a fighter in the U.S. Senate,” Greitens said Monday. “They need somebody who is going to go — as I will, as I am committed to do — to defending President Trump’s ‘American First’ policies.”