Kunce, Valentine Swap Defamation Allegations as Primary Gets Ugly

The two are vying to win the Democratic Party's nod for Missouri's open seat

Jul 28, 2022 at 2:15 pm
click to enlarge Trudy Busch Valentine (left) and Lucas Kunce (right) are the leading democratic candidates running to replace Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate.
Trudy Busch Valentine (left) and Lucas Kunce (right) are the leading democratic candidates running to replace Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate.

With five days until voters go to the polls, the two leading Democratic candidates for Senate are trading legal barbs.

At the heart of the fracas is a campaign ad titled "Not Real" put out by beer heiress and nurse Trudy Busch Valentine attacking former Marine Lucas Kunce.

Near the end of the ad, it states that Kunce is against gay marriage, Planned Parenthood and criminal-justice reform as it relates to marijuana possession. These were Kunce's positions "when he last ran for office," the ad states.

Kunce's last race was in 2006 when he ran for Missouri Statehouse.

On Tuesday, the Kunce campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Valentine campaign.

"The Busch Valentine Committee is well aware that each of these three statements is wholly untrue. And yet it has produced and disseminated an advertisement containing these deliberate lies with actual malice toward Mr. Kunce in an effort to deceive Missouri voters," the cease and desist states.

"Actual malice" is a term associated with libel and slander suits brought by high profile individuals.

The cease and desist claims the ad gives viewers the impression that Kunce still holds these beliefs about drug policy, abortion and prison reform when they are actually from 16 years ago. The cease and desist states that this makes the ad not only misleading but that it also defames Kunce.

"Our cease and desist was extremely specific," Kunce's deputy campaign manager Connor Lounsbury tells the RFT. "In the last second or two of the ad, Trudy Busch Valentine attempts to claim that Lucas still believes these things. That's what the ad is intended to do. And that's what it's doing."

The Valentine campaign responded to Kunce's cease and desist with its own letter asking Kunce to "maintain and retain all records the [Kunce] campaign has related to Valentine and her campaign."

A ​​maintain-and-retain request is often used prior to litigation being filed, asking an entity to preserve documents that may wind up as salient to the lawsuit.

The Valentine campaign states it made the request because Kunce's letter accusing Valentine's campaign of defamation may have itself been defamatory.

Kunce's letter accused Valentine of using her "inherited millions to spread lies."

When reached for comment about the matter the Valentine campaign said, “Our letter speaks for itself.”

Lounsbury called Valentine's response, "bullshit," saying that it doesn't actually address the issues the Kunce campaign brought up in its cease and desist.

A recent poll from Emerson College Polling and the Hill found that 39 percent of Democratic primary voters say they plan to cast a ballot for Valentine. Kunce is only four points behind with 35 percent. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

"It's a dead fucking heat," Lounsbury says.