Update: According to final, unofficial results, Valentine bested the field with 43.1 percent of the vote. Lucas Kunce finished second, claiming 38 percent, while Spencer Toder finished a distant third with less than 5 percent of the vote.
Original story follows....
Trudy Busch Valentine greets supporters after winning Missouri's Democratic primary.
Trudy Busch Valentine eked out a narrow victory against Lucas Kunce at the Democratic primary on Tuesday, according to preliminary, unofficial results from the Missouri Secretary of State. AP called the race at 10:11 p.m. for Valentine.
The win comes despite Valentine largely staying away from voters, debates and unscripted public appearances during her campaign. The former nurse and heiress to the Busch beer fortune was up against a large slate of Democratic challengers, chief among them Lucas Kunce and Spencer Toder, but name recognition and political endorsements seem to have won the day.
Valentine won 42 percent of the vote with Kunce at 38 percent. In a distant third was Spencer Toder with 4.5 percent. The relatively unknown Carla "Coffee" Wright nearly tied with Toder for 4.3 percent of the vote with 2,392 precincts out of 3,592 reporting.
Spencer Toder (right) with his wife Chelsea.
Valentine had the backing of the Democratic machine, including endorsements by Mayor Tishaura Jones; Freedom, Inc., the preeminent black political organization in KC; and U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City).
Now that Valentine has won the primary, she'll face Republican challenger and current Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in November.
The night of the election, Spencer Toder, a real estate broker and medical-device-company owner, held his results party at Pastaria Wine & Deli. It was a light crowd at first, but by early evening people were filing in.
“I feel great," Toder said. “I don't think there's a scenario where we don't surprise people. No one expects much, but I'm also realistic that I didn't spend $6 million on TV and I didn't get a Bernie Sanders endorsement.”
Toder is referring to Lucas Kunce, who was endorsed by the Vermont senator on Monday.
Kunce held his watch party in Kansas City. Despite early returns favoring Valentine, his press secretary Kelli Kee said that she thought Kunce would pull ahead when rural areas started reporting. Kunce had a heavy presence across the state, while Valentine said she wouldn't campaign rurally until the general election.
Lucas Kunce concedes to Trudy Busch Valentine.
Lindsey Vaiciulis, 23, a seventh grade social studies teacher teacher from northwest Missouri, echoed that sentiment. Vaiciulis said at the watch party that Kunce was the first candidate she's ever heard talk about her area of the state. The former Marine then won her over by talking about an issue near and dear to her heart: China buying Missouri farmland and driving up land prices.
Unfortunately, Kunce's populist approach and hard campaigning was not enough for him to eke out a victory.
At Valentine's party, the mood was sedate until the presumptive nominee took the stage around 10:35 p.m. to celebrate her victory.
Ryan Krull and Jessica Rogen contributed to this report.