Citing Greitens defeat, John Wood abandons independent run for U.S. Senate in Missouri

By: - August 23, 2022 2:16 pm

John Wood questioning a witness during a hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol (screenshot: C-SPAN).

Despite assurances that the outcome of the Republican U.S. Senate primary would not alter his plans to run as an independent, John Wood announced Tuesday he was ending his campaign.  

The reason: Former Gov. Eric Greitens did not win the GOP nomination.

“I made the decision to run for the United States Senate when Eric Greitens was the favorite for the Republican nomination,” Wood said in an email to supporters. “That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state and my country.”

Missouri “no longer faces the risk of Greitens as our next U.S. Senator,” Wood said. 

While he acknowledged significant differences of opinion with both Republican nominee Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, “it has become evident there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate.”

Wood’s departure from the race comes three weeks after he submitted signatures in the hopes of getting on the November ballot

The secretary of state’s office received a request from Wood to withdraw his signature petition. He would have been certified to appear on the November ballot Tuesday if he’d not withdrawn, said JoDonn Cheney, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

At the urging of his political mentor, former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, Wood stepped down from a position as an investigator for the Congressional committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection to move back to Missouri to pursue a run for Senate. 

Danforth had spent months trying to recruit a Republican to run as an independent because he felt every GOP candidate seeking the nomination was too extreme. 

In addition to supporting Wood publicly, Danforth created a super PAC to support his candidacy and vowed to raise $20 million to get Wood elected. 

In an emailed statement, Danforth said he sympathized with Wood’s decision, since the “path to electoral victory here became exceedingly narrow once Eric Schmitt, rather than Eric Greitens, won the Republican nomination.”

Yet, Danforth said, he was still disappointed, and “Missouri voters ought to be as well.”

“Once again, they are left with no good options,” Danforth said. “There is no question that of the three candidates who until today were in the 2022 race for U.S. Senate from Missouri, John Wood is by far the best qualified.”

Danforth called The Big Lie — the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen  — a “direct attack on American democracy.”

“Trump invented The Big Lie and Eric Schmitt has been a leader in sustaining and spreading it,” Danforth said. “Schmitt hasn’t just gone along with The Big Lie. He has been its great and eager champion. In my book that’s disqualifying.”

Schmitt was among a handful of GOP attorneys general who waged an unsuccessful legal fight to overturn results in battleground states won by Biden.

As recently as last week, Wood showed no signs he was considering leaving the race. He publicly criticized Schmitt in an interview with KCUR, saying that the GOP nominee was “entirely beholden to Donald Trump.” And he told the Kansas City Star that setting aside Greitens’ “personal flaws” he didn’t see much difference between the former governor and Schmitt

“They’re both embracing the extreme divisive rhetoric and symbolism,” Wood told the Star.

In his Tuesday email announcing he was no longer running, Wood promised to continue to fight to preserve democracy. 

“I will continue to stand up for our democratic republic,” he said, “and oppose those who prioritize party and self-interest over the needs of our country however I can.”

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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.