News Briefs

Missouri Democratic Senate debate called off after Valentine ignored requests to participate

By: - July 7, 2022 9:49 am

Trudy Busch Valentine, left, and Lucas Kunce were supposed to debate next week in Kansas City (campaign photos).

A scheduled television debate between two of the leading candidates for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination has been postponed due to lack of response to invitations by Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine.

Scott Diener, news director for KMOV in St. Louis, issued a statement on Twitter expressing disappointment that Valentine “has not even responded to numerous requests to participate in a statewide-televised MO Democratic U.S. Senate debate” with former Marine Lucas Kunce. 

The event was supposed to take place next week at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and would have been broadcast statewide.

Kunce, who agreed to participate in the debate in May, blasted Valentine for not agreeing to the event.

“The working people of this state deserve to hear directly from the candidates,” Kunce said in a statement. “From day one, I have campaigned across this state to earn every vote, and I hope that my opponent will have the respect for Missouri voters to show up and debate. I look forward to meeting her onstage to debate the issues impacting real Missourians.”

Alex Witt, Valentine’s campaign manager, said in an email that, “This particular debate opportunity didn’t work for the campaign.

“We are continuing to evaluate opportunities as they arise,” Whitt said. “Meanwhile Trudy has been engaging with voters in a variety of formats on issues important to Missourians.”

Valentine was a late entry into the Democratic primary, filing on March 28, but was immediately considered a potential frontrunner due to her ability to self-finance a campaign. She recently reported assets between $67.5 million and $214.7 million and an income in 2021 between $4.25 million and $30.5 million

She’s earned high profile endorsements from officials like U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, but has also received criticism for declining invitations for public events and candidate forums.

“Campaigning is about showing up,” said Kelli Kee, Kunce’s press secretary. “People running for office shouldn’t be afraid of the very people they’re trying to represent.”

Meanwhile, another candidate in the Democratic primary — St. Louis businessman Spencer Toder — is crying foul about KMOV’s decision to only invite Kunce and Valentine.

Diener said the eligibility criteria for the debate was at least 5% support in either the Real Clear Politics average of polls or the GrayTV/Survey USA poll, or least 5,000 individual contributions filed with Federal Election Commission.

“I am here, ready, willing (and actually pretty excited) to debate Lucas Kunce,” Toder said in an email statement. “Frustratingly, the station didn’t invite me.”

Toder added: “The media denying candidates a platform is exactly why it is such a struggle to break through the noise to get name recognition.”

The GrayTV/Survey USA poll, released in May, showed Kunce leading with 10%, followed by Valentine with 8%. Toder garnered 3%, with 63% registered as undecided.

Meanwhile, a similar kerfuffle over debates is developing on the GOP side as well, with U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler publicly castigating Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Gov. Eric Greitens for refusing to participate in a July 13 TV debate.

“Our opponents are airing ads of themselves with flamethrowers, flash grenades, and sniper rifles, but remain in hiding at the possibility of answering questions about their records,” said Mike Hafner, Hartzler’s campaign manager.

In response, U.S. Rep. Billy Long used Twitter to criticize Hartzler for refusing to participate in a debate on Monday organized by Real America’s Voice and The Gateway Pundit.

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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.