Trump gives boost, but not endorsement, to Billy Long in U.S. Senate primary

Former president spoke with Long about Greitens’ allegations, called him a ‘big, loud, and proud personality’

By: - March 24, 2022 8:00 am

Billy Long speaks during a press conference before filing for election during the Missouri Senate primary on Feb. 22, 2022, in Jefferson City (Madeline Carter/Missouri Independent).

Congressman Billy Long, trailing several of his major rivals in this year’s Republican Senate primary, received a boost – but not an endorsement – Wednesday from former President Donald Trump.

The statement, issued Wednesday afternoon, came after a Tuesday evening call that was initiated by Trump to ask Long about allegations of child and spousal abuse against former Gov. Eric Greitens, frontrunner in the race.

In the statement, some of it framed as a question, Trump asked whether Missouri Republican primary voters had given “the big, loud, and proud personality of Congressman Billy Long” proper consideration.

Trump called Long “a warrior” and parroted what Long has said repeatedly is one of his main selling points for Trump voters, an early endorsement of the former president’s 2016 campaign. Trump said Long was ‘the first major political leader to say, ‘You better get on the Trump Train, it’s leaving the station.’”

“This is not an Endorsement, but I’m just askin’?” the statement concluded.

There are 18 candidates filed for the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. Of that group, six are registering in polls – Greitens, Long, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey and state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz.

Trump’s endorsement is the most coveted prize of the GOP primary contenders. He won 57 percent of the vote in the 2020 election in Missouri and most of the major candidates have worked hard to woo him. Greitens’ courting of Trump’s endorsement includes hiring Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is in a relationship with Donald Trump Jr., as his national campaign director and seeking out the endorsement of major Trump allies including Rudy Giuliani.

Long, speaking Wednesday morning on KCMO radio in Kansas City, said Trump called him Tuesday evening while Long was attending a Springfield Chamber of Commerce dinner. Long represents the 7th Congressional District in southwest Missouri, including Springfield.

Trump wanted Long’s take on allegations by Sheena Greitens, made in a child custody case, that Eric Greitens engaged in “unstable and coercive” behavior, including striking their young son at the dinner table, threatening suicide and demanding she not discuss his behavior with family or a therapist.

Long said he warned Trump against endorsing Greiten. 

Long, before he mentioned Trump during the radio broadcast, said the allegations in the affidavit from Sheena Greitens make him unfit to be in the Senate.

“I’m sure he’s not going to drop out, but I just, if those allegations are true, I don’t think he’s fit and time will tell, I guess, in court,” Long said.

In the call with Trump, Long said he also went on the attack to prevent the former president from endorsing one of the other major candidates.

“I said, ‘you know, you’ve got some choices here,’” Long said. “You can endorse the guy that has backed you from day one, never walked away from you, invented the phrase Trump Train, been stronger with you than anyone.’”

He said he told Trump that Hartzler was “Mitch McConnell’s candidate” and that Schmitt was the candidate favored by China. Hartzler, who has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, will be funded heavily from Washington, Long said.

Politico reported in February that Hartzler was endorsed by the Secure Our Freedom Action Fund, a super PAC run by Chris Cox, former National Rifle Association political director.

“Vicky’s gonna have all the money, enough money to burn a wet mule,” Long said.

Mike Hafner, Hartzler’s campaign manager, said Wednesday afternoon that Long is wrong about Hartzler’s ties to McConnell. She was asked about McConnell’s future as Senate Republican Leader on Tuesday, Hafner said, and declined to say whether she would vote for him.

Mike Mahoney of KMBC tweeted that Hartzler “repeatedly” declined to take a position and called the question “hypothetical.”

The latest primary poll, conducted a month ago by the Trafalgar Group, showed Greitens with 31%, Schmitt with 23%, Hartzler at 17%, Long at 6%, McCloskey at 5% and Schatz, the most recent entrant in the race, with 2%.

Greitens, who was governor from January 2017 to June 2018, resigned as he faced impeachment and criminal charges. He was accused of threatening to reveal nude photos of a woman, taken against her will while she was blindfolded and her hands were bound, if she told anyone of a sexual affair.

He resigned as part of a plea deal to dismiss a computer tampering charge stemming from allegations that he stole from a veterans charity in order to boost his 2016 campaign.

On Wednesday, William Tisaby, a former FBI agent hired by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and was sentenced to a year of probation in a case stemming from the 2018 investigation.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.

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