ST. LOUIS (AP) — Eric Greitens, the former Navy SEAL officer who rose quickly to become Missouri governor before scandal forced him out of office just a year and a half into his tenure, announced Monday that he would run for the Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Roy Blunt.
The announcement by Greitens, 46, came 14 days after Blunt said he would not seek a third term in 2022.
Greitens was a political outsider when he ran for governor in 2016, but his resume was impressive. In addition to his role in the elite military outfit, he was a best-selling author, a Rhodes scholar and had started a charity for veterans.
Greitens defeated establishment Republicans in the primary before winning in November. By the end of his first year in office, Greitens was getting buzz as a potential future presidential contender.
It all began to fall apart in January 2018 when a St. Louis TV station aired a report about an extramarital affair with his hairdresser in 2015, before he was elected. A month later, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner convened a grand jury for the case. The grand jury indicted Greitens for invasion of privacy, accusing him of taking a compromising photo of the woman and threatening to use it as blackmail if she ever spoke of the encounter.
Greitens admitted to the affair (he and his wife, Sheena, divorced last year) but denied criminal wrongdoing and accused Gardner, a Democrat, of a politically motivated prosecution.
Another scandal followed in April when Gardner charged Greitens with another felony, accusing him of illegally using the donor list for his charity, The Mission Continues, to raise money for his 2016 campaign.
Meanwhile, the Republican-led Missouri Legislature began considering whether to pursue impeachment proceedings. Those discussions and the criminal charges came to an end when Greitens resigned in June 2018.
His return to public life has been gradual. He successfully sought reinstatement to the Navy, though not as a SEAL officer, in 2019. He passed out masks to first responders across the state in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic last spring. He has launched his own television show on the internet and Dish TV and is appearing often on conservative TV and radio programs.
Some Missouri observers aren’t convinced Greitens can overcome the baggage of his past.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is considered a potentially strong candidate based on his name recognition and political lineage. Ashcroft is the son of John Ashcroft, who was a governor, senator and U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush.
St. Louis University political scientist Ken Warren said that Ashcroft “has a statewide office. He’s got a great Republican name.” On the other hand, he said, “I think that Greitens is very damaged goods.”