U.S. Rep. Graves won't run for Senate in 2012; Emerson ponders run

Friday, February 4, 2011
Jo Ann Emerson

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- U.S. Rep. Sam Graves of northwest Missouri chose a committee chairmanship over a Senate campaign Thursday, removing himself from a potential Republican primary for the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012.

Graves, who recently became chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said he is the first person from his area ever to lead a House committee and the time commitment of a Senate campaign probably would have forced him to step down from his leadership post.

He described it as "an agonizing decision."

His decision still leaves two other Republicans in Missouri's Senate race. St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin -- who narrowly lost a congressional bid last year -- declared his Senate candidacy on Monday. Former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman announced her candidacy Dec. 1, becoming one of the earliest entries nationally into the 2012 campaigns.

At least two other prominent Republicans have been considering Missouri's Senate race.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Southeast Missouri said Thursday she was giving serious thought to the Senate race.

"The 2012 Senate race is going to focus on how we create more jobs and opportunity in Missouri while limiting the size and scope of the federal government. It will be a referendum in the U.S. Senate in the same way the 2010 elections were a referendum in the U.S. House of Representatives," Emerson said in a statement after Graves announced he would not run. "I've been asked to give it serious consideration, and I am."

Former Missouri Republican Party chairwoman Ann Wagner said last week that she would defer to either Graves or Emerson if they chose to run, but added that she was seriously considering her own bid.

Graves said he intends to let the Republican field of Senate candidates "fully form" before issuing any endorsement.

A farmer from Tarkio, Graves defeated the son of longtime former Democratic Rep. Pat Danner to win a close election for the 6th Congressional District seat in 2000. He has carried as least 59 percent of the vote in each re-election bid since then. Graves previously served in both the state House and state Senate.

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