‘More acts of kindness’: Busch Valentine sees Senate race as a chance to heal divisions

By: - April 14, 2022 11:16 am

Trudy Busch Valentine announced a run in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate on March 29, 2022 (submitted photo).

Trudy Busch Valentine says she sought advice from a lot of people before she decided last month to jump into politics by running for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat. 

But what sealed the deal, she said in an interview Wednesday, was a conversation with women Democratic U.S. senators, including Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

“When I got off the phone with them, that’s when I really felt I could do this,” Valentine said. “Because I care about people the same way they do. And I care about the issues that people are facing.”

Valentine, 64, is one of 11 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. 

An heiress to the Anheuser-Busch family fortune, her decision to enter the race just before filing closed last month turned the campaign on its head by raising the specter of Democrats being able to field a candidate who could match Republican spending out of her own pocket. 

Valentine, a registered 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.

How much of that is her personal wealth is uncertain. 

In her interview with The Independent, Valentine was clear she plans to help finance her campaign, though she wasn’t ready to lay out specifics.   

“I was raised by parents who lived the American dream, and I was taught to be independent and serve others,” she said. “And I’m running for the Senate because I want everybody to live their American dream. And I’m investing in my campaign because it’s that important to me.”

Her campaign message, Valentine said, will focus on the need to fix a broken political system that she believes is leaving too many Missourians “struggling to afford basic necessities.”

“We need more acts of kindness,” she said, “and less division.”

While she may be best known for her family’s business, Valentine is hoping voters will focus on her years as a registered nurse. She said volunteering at a St. Louis hospital when she was 13 “sparked a lifelong passion for nursing and a commitment to service.” 

“Nursing has truly connected me with people,” she said. “And so, you know, my entire life, I worked to help and care for people, to give back to my community and to treat others with respect.”

Valentine was married to John Dee Valentine until his death from cancer in 2002. She has six children and eight grandchildren. Her son Matthew died of an opioid overdose in 2020.

“I know the pain that the opioid epidemic has brought to Missouri,” she said, “and I’m ready to fight for real solutions.”

Asked where she may differ from her party, Valentine pointed to the idea of “defunding the police.”

“I think defunding the police is totally wrong,” she said, “because we need to be funding the police with the money and training they need to keep all of us safe.”

Democrats have had a difficult time in Missouri over the past decade, winning just one statewide contest since 2012. But they increasingly see the U.S. Senate race as winnable.

That’s especially true, they believe, if Republicans nominate former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned from office in 2018 amid multiple scandals and has recently been accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife.

Before Valentine entered the race, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce was seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. He has thus far vastly out-raised his Democratic rivals — and a few Republicans as well — with an anti-corporate, anti-establishment message that slams both political parties as too beholden to corporations and Wall Street.

He has vowed to reconnect with working–class voters who have felt abandoned by the Democratic Party, and in a previous interview with The Independent said he’d take on “massive corporations and elites who are buying off our politicians and encouraging them to make decisions that work for the people at the top and strip our communities for parts.”

So far, Valentine has voiced a far less populist message, emphasizing that she believes Missourians of all political stripes can work together and “treat each other with respect, honesty and integrity.”

“People in Missouri can always count on me to lead with those values,” she said. “I think that’s what’s really missing in politics.”

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has spent two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, with most of that time focused on the Missouri statehouse as a reporter for The Kansas City Star. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he helped launch The Missouri Independent in October 2020.