Sen. Mike Lee endorses Missouri Attorney General Schmitt in crowded GOP Senate primary

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EXCLUSIVE: Republican Sen. Mike Lee is taking sides in the packed Missouri Republican Senate primary for the race to succeed retired GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.

Lee, the conservative two-term senator from Utah, endorsed Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Tuesday in an announcement shared first with Fox News.

CRUZ SUPPORTS SCHMITT IN MISSOURI SENATE GOP COMPETITIVE PRIMARY

“As Attorney General, Eric Schmitt was a relentless fighter who took action at every turn to stop the Biden administration’s radical agenda,” Lee said in a statement. “Eric Schmitt is the only U.S. Senate primary candidate from Missouri with the conservative credentials necessary to win Republican victories for our nation. He has my strongest support.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Thanking Lee for his endorsement, Schmitt said he “looks forward to standing with him to fight illegal immigration, challenge government excesses and uphold the rule of law.”

Lee is the second top Senate Republican to endorse Schmitt, following conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who endorsed Schmitt in February.

CHECK OUT THE LATEST FOX NEWS 2022 POWER RANKINGS

Schmitt, who won two Missouri statewide elections — for treasurer and then attorney general — has made headlines over the past year and a half by filing lawsuits against the administration. of President Biden. He is one of more than 20 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in the Aug. 2 primary.

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt of Missouri, a leading candidate for the state's GOP Senate nomination, greets voters at the Texas County and Shannon County Lincoln Days rally, June 11, 2022
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Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt of Missouri, a leading candidate for the state’s GOP Senate nomination, greets voters at the Texas County and Shannon County Lincoln Days rally, June 11, 2022
(Eric Schmitt’s Senate campaign)

Schmitt is considered a major GOP contender in the race, along with former Gov. Eric Greitens, who left office in 2018 amid multiple controversies, as well as Rep. Vicky Hartzler in Missouri’s 4th congressional district, in the mostly rural midwestern part of the state, Rep. Billy Long in the state’s 7th congressional district in southwestern Missouri, and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis attorney who, with his wife, made national headlines in the summer of 2020 for holding guns outside their home to warn Black Lives Matter protesters.

And Schmitt, along with Greitens and Hartzler, are considered polling favorites in the Republican contest. To date, former President Donald Trump remains neutral in the primary battle. The winner of the GOP primary will be seen as the frontrunner in Missouri, which was once a competitive state but has tended to be Republican for more than a decade.

GREITENS STRONGLY CRITICISM BY DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS FOR ‘RINO HUNTING’ VIDEO

Greitens came under fire Monday from Democrats and Republicans for a campaign video released by his team. In the ad, Greitens touts his Navy SEAL service in the video, as he was seen breaking into a house – while holding a shotgun and flanked by a tactical team – and pursuing what he called “RINO hunting”, encouraging the “bagging and tagging” of moderate Republicans with a “RINO hunting license”.

The release of the videos comes amid a national focus on political violence, following recent fatal shootings and threats against government officials.

And controversy is the latest to surround Greitens, who tried to gloss over graphic allegations of domestic abuse and abuse made by his ex-wife in a sworn affidavit filed in March in their child custody case.

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The Schmitt campaign initially reacted to Greitens’ video with an eye-rolling emoji.

Asked by Fox News on Tuesday for a statement, Schmitt campaign spokesman Rich Chrismer said “like so many things involving Eric Greitens, this is clearly a call for attention to satisfy his own ego. We hope that Missouri primary voters will send a real fighter to Eric Schmitt in the Senate, not a quitter like Eric Greitens.”

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Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer and Republican-turned-Independent who launched a third-party challenge against Lee in the Utah Senate race, condemned Greitens’ video and urged Lee to do the same.

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