Missouri's Senate Primary on Tuesday Will Test the Values of the State's Beleaguered Republican Party

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Missouri Republican senate primary candidates: US Rep. Vicky Hartzler ; state Attorney General ;Eric Schmitt; Eric Greitens Mark McCloskey
Missouri Republican senate primary candidates: US Rep. Vicky Hartzler ; state Attorney General ;Eric Schmitt; Eric Greitens Mark McCloskey

Getty (4) Missouri Republican senate primary candidates: US Rep. Vicky Hartzler ; state Attorney General ;Eric Schmitt; Eric Greitens Mark McCloskey

Tuesday's Senate primary in Missouri will test the values of the state's Republican party, which is grappling with a group of candidates who have nearly all courted controversy for one reason or another.

Some 21 candidates are seeking the nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Roy Blunt, who announced in March that he would not seek reelection.

Among the top Republican candidates is former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was mired in controversy due to allegations of blackmail related to an extramarital affair — and allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife. The others running against Greitens, while perhaps a smidge less tainted, carry their own share of baggage, too.

Eric Greitens

Much of the controversy that surrounded Greitens began in 2017, he was indicted on a felony charge of computer tampering, following claims that he improperly took a donor list from his nonprofit veterans group to help his political campaign.

Then, in 2018, the former Navy SEAL was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to allegations that he had tried to blackmail a woman with whom he had the affair (that charge was later dropped).

After the state's House and Senate collected the signatures necessary to call a special session to consider impeachment, Greitens announced that he would resign effective June 1, 2018 (his resignation was part of a deal with the St. Louis prosecutor's office which withdrew the felony charges related to the veterans' charity email list).

RELATED: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Accused of Unwanted Sexual Advances, Abuse in Government Report

2018 file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens looks on before speaking at an event near the capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. Greitens, a sometimes brash outsider whose unconventional resume as a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer made him a rising star in Republican politics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, May 29, 2018, after a scandal involving an affair with his former hairdresser led to a broader investigation by prosecutors and state legislators.
2018 file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens looks on before speaking at an event near the capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. Greitens, a sometimes brash outsider whose unconventional resume as a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer made him a rising star in Republican politics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, May 29, 2018, after a scandal involving an affair with his former hairdresser led to a broader investigation by prosecutors and state legislators.

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo Eric Greitens

In March 2022, Greitens ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, accused her ex-husband of "unstable and coercive behavior" that included "physical violence" toward their two young children in an affidavit filed in an ongoing child custody dispute.

The former governor released a statement on Twitter at the time, calling his ex-wife's claims "completely fabricated, baseless allegations."

RELATED: Ex-Wife of Former Missouri Gov. Greitens, Now Running for Senate, Alleges 'Physical Violence' Against Sons

In the wake of the allegations of violence, Greitens in July released an ad in which he can be seen carrying a large gun and telling those at home: "Today, we're going RINO hunting."

"RINO" stands for "Republican in name only," and has long been used as slang by far-right politicians to belittle moderate Republican opponents. Today, the acronym is most commonly associated with Donald Trump's Make America Great Again movement.

"The RINO feeds on corruption," Greitens says as he and men wearing military gear gather outside of a home, "and is marked by the stripes of cowardice."

The group then enters the home using force with guns in hand.

"Join the MAGA crew, get a RINO hunting permit," Greitens says. "There's no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn't expire until we save our country."

Eric Schmitt

Schmitt, the state's attorney general, has benefited from the controversy surrounding Greitens, with many Republicans looking for another option.

Schmitt has faced some controversy of his own, and has been criticized for filing dozens of lawsuits against Missouri cities and school districts over their pandemic precautions, such as mask mandates.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, even some fellow Republicans have tired of the lawsuits — which some have suggested are little more than taxpayer-funded stunts aimed at securing support amongst his base.

"Would I say that probably the attorney general went a little out of his way for political purposes? Yeah, probably," Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden told reporters, per the Dispatch.

In July, Schmitt filed another lawsuit — this one aimed at the city of St. Louis, in an effort to halt taxpayer-funded abortions.

Vicky Hartzler

Hartzler has seen controversy, as well, such as in March, when Twitter suspended her account for writing: "Women's sports are for women, not men pretending to be women," a jab at transgender athletes.

While Hartzler, a U.S. representative, has grown in popularity amid a backlash against Greitens, she still hasn't secured a highly coveted Republican endorsement: that of former President Donald Trump.

National Guard pizza
National Guard pizza

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Rep. Vicky Hartzler delivering pizzas to members of the Delaware National Guard

Taking to his his social media site Truth Social last month, Trump said that Hartzler had asked, but he had decided against endorsing her.

"She called me this morning asking for my endorsement, much as she has on many other occasions," Trump wrote, per the Missouri Independent. "I was anything but positive in that I don't think she has what it takes to take on the Radical Left Democrats, together with their partner in the destruction of our Country, the Fake News Media and, of course, the deceptive & foolish RINOs."

Instead, Trump praised Greitens, calling him "tough" and "smart."

"A little controversial, but I've endorsed controversial people before," Trump said. "So we'll see what happens."

Billy Long

A six-term congressman, Long is a fixture on Missouri right-wing radio, and — in the style of Trump — often takes to Twitter to criticize his Republican rivals (he's referred to Hartzler as "Mini Liz Cheney" and Greitens as "Chicken Schmitt").

Long was a conservative talk radio host and auctioneer before deciding to run for the House in 2010, when Blunt had announced he was leaving that seat in order to run for U.S. Senate.

Still, Long has trailed in polls when it comes to making the leap to the Senate himself.

A loyal Trump fan, Long has been open about his hope that the former president would endorse him. While Trump hasn't offered an official endorsement, he did release a statement asking voters to consider "the big, loud and proud personality of Congressman Billy Long."

He's also faced his own criticism, such as when he pinned recent mass shootings not on guns, but on abortion.

"Unfortunately, they're trying to blame inanimate objects for all of these tragedies," Long said, per Vanity Fair. "When I was growing up in Springfield, you had one or two murders a year. Now we have two, three, four a week in Springfield, Missouri, so something has happened to our society and I go back to abortion. When we decided it was okay to murder kids in their mother's wombs, life has no value to a lot of these folks."

RELATED: Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Slammed for 'RINO Hunting' Senate Campaign Ad: 'This Is Sociopathic'

Mark and Patricia McCloskey
Mark and Patricia McCloskey

Bill Greenblatt/UPI/Shutterstock Mark and Patricia McCloskey

Mark McCloskey

McCloskey went viral when he and his wife, Patricia, were seen in a viral video brandishing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside of their home in summer 2020.

Footage and photos show the couple holding the guns when protesters marched through their gated community amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protesters were headed to the nearby home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and were calling on the mayor to resign.

In June 2021, the couple pled guilty to misdemeanor charges.

Mark was fined $750 for fourth-degree assault while Patricia pled guilty to second-degree harassment and was fined $2,000, according to court documents obtained by CNN. The couple, both personal injury attorneys, also agreed to surrender their handgun and semi-automatic rifle.

Mark announced his campaign for Senate in May 2021, telling Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight: "I've always been a Republican, but I have never been a politician. But you know, God came knocking on my door last summer disguised as an angry mob, and it really did wake me up."