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Senate hopeful Trudy Busch Valentine counters NRA fundraiser plan at Grant’s Farm

U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine says she convinced the board she serves on that oversees her family’s St. Louis estate to cancel a fundraiser for the National Rifle Association scheduled for September.

News of the fundraiser was first revealed Tuesday by The Intercept and drew intense backlash from Democrats, coming so soon after a pair deadly mass shootings at an elementary school in Texas and a supermarket in New York.

Valentine, heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune, released a statement on Twitter after The Intercept’s report was published. She said when she learned an NRA fundraiser was being held at Grant’s Farm — where she grew up and which she co-owns with other members of the Busch family — she made an immediate contribution to the national gun control organization Moms Demand Action.

The donation, Valentine said, “exceeds the rental fees the NRA is paying to Grant’s Farm for the event.”

Later Tuesday, she tweeted that she had convinced the board of trustees overseeing Grant’s Farm — made up of Valentine and four of her relatives —  to cancel the event.

“I’m in this race,” she tweeted, “because I’m ready to stand up to the gun lobby.”

According to the website for the NRA’s fundraising arm, tickets for the St. Louis event started at $75, but $5,500 purchased a table of eight and an NRA-engraved Colt 357 Python pistol. 

Soon after after 19 students and two teachers were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Valentine publicly called for an end to the filibuster in the U.S. Senate to pass universal background checks and restrict the sale of military-style assault weapons.

She reiterated that call Tuesday in response to the criticism over the NRA fundraiser. 

“Our country is yearning for common sense gun safety reforms like background checks, red flag laws and preventing people who have been reported as dangerous to law enforcement by mental health providers from purchasing guns,” she tweeted.

Grant’s Farm, a former plantation that has been in the Busch family since 1903, has become a regular venue for high-dollar fundraisers in St. Louis.

In March, former Gov. Eric Greitens held a fundraiser there to support his bid for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. The event took place a week before Valentine entered the Democratic Senate primary and was hosted by her brother, Peter Busch.

Valentine’s moves to get the NRA fundraiser canceled did little to quell criticism from her fellow Democrats in the U.S. primary.

“After deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan and carrying these weapons of war in combat zones, Lucas Kunce would never take a single penny from the NRA,” said Connor Lounsbury, Kunce’s deputy campaign manager. “Not in his personal life. Not in his campaign.”

A fundraising email Tuesday from the Kunce campaign used a similar message. 

Spencer Toder, a St. Louis businessman also seeking the Democratic nomination, dismissed both his potential primary rivals.

“While Ms. Valentine was defending the use of her family’s property to host an NRA fundraiser and Lucas Kunce was fundraising off of her family’s support of the gun lobby, I was holding a forum for Missourians who are fed up with gun violence and who want to see real change,” Toder said in an email to The Independent. 

Kunce, Toder and Valentine are all running for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. 

Valentine, a first-time candidate for public office, was a late entrant into the Democratic primary but was considered an immediate contender due to her ability to fund her own campaign. 

But her campaign got off to a rocky start after The Intercept reported she was crowned queen of the St. Louis elite’s Veiled Prophet Ball in 1977. The Veiled Prophet Organization, which runs the ball, did not allow Black or Jewish members until 1979.

Facing backlash, Valentine issued a public apology for her involvement with the organization. 

This article by Jason Hancock is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.

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