Some people think Labor Day is the unofficial kickoff to the general election campaign. For farmers and ranchers, though, the Missouri State Fair is where the action begins. Starting the week after the primary, candidates of all stripes swing by the Governor’s Ham Breakfast to shake hands, the cattle barns to inspect the livestock and, of course, the Missouri Farm Bureau building to help serve ice-cold 25-cent milk to fairgoers.

This year’s fair saw plenty of candidates visiting with potential voters. With the retirement of Senator Roy Blunt, Missourians have an open U.S. Senate seat to fill for the first time in 12 years. Senator Blunt was a stalwart supporter of agriculture and the rural way of life and leaves big shoes for his successor to fill. Keeping with tradition, Missouri Farm Bureau asked fairgoers to vote in a straw poll to see who they prefer in the race to succeed Senator Blunt.

The 1,383 votes submitted over the 11-day fair in mid-August picked Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt over his main rival, Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, 74.5% to 15.0%. An additional 4.8% preferred independent candidate John Wood, who dropped out of the race soon after the fair, 3.8% selected Constitution Party candidate Paul Venable, and 2.6% chose Libertarian Jonathan Dine.

The Missouri State Fair crowd is obviously a rural-leaning bunch, but a five-fold advantage for Schmitt is overwhelming, no matter the audience makeup. Missouri Farm Bureau members expressed a similar sentiment in favor of the Attorney General, voting soon after the fair to endorse him in the Senate race.

During his time as a State Senator, State Treasurer, and Missouri Attorney General, Schmitt has built a track record of fighting for rural communities and farmers and ranchers. As Treasurer, Schmitt helped modernize the Missouri Linked Deposit Program and relaunch it as Missouri FIRST, which made a tangible positive impact throughout the state’s rural communities. As Attorney General, he has fought against activist regulations from California trying to tell Missourians how to farm and sued the Biden administration to stop its expansion of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. He also fought federal government overreach of greenhouse gas emissions and tackled the opioid crisis through the Real Opioid Plan initiative. We will need someone with his kind of tough, fighting spirit to defend our rights in Washington.

Straw polls are not scientific, but the Missouri Farm Bureau State Fair Straw Poll has a 40-year track record of providing a clear sense of the feeling of the rural electorate. The November election is now just over two months away, and Eric Schmitt will be working hard every remaining day to ensure he can go to Washington and work on behalf of Missourians. If our straw poll is any indication, he will earn strong support from the hardworking men and women of rural Missouri come election day.