Kinder won't run for Congress in 2014

Sunday, November 3, 2013
In this file photo, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder announces on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Cape Girardeau an exploratory committee for a run for the 8th Congressional District in 2014. Seated with Kinder are Mary Kasten, left, David Limbaugh and Trisha LaFoe. (Fred Lynch)

Saying a run for Congress "just isn't in the cards," Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder announced Friday he won't oppose fellow Republican and incumbent Rep. Jason Smith for Missouri's 8th Congressional District seat.

The news came a few weeks after Kinder announced he was forming an exploratory committee to study a run for the seat. The committee included major names in the local Republican Party, including former state representative Mary Kasten and lawyer, conservative author and columnist David Limbaugh.

"After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to end the month-long, exploratory phase on an 8th District congressional candidacy by forgoing a race in 2014," Kinder said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

Kinder, who said his family's Southeast Missouri roots stretch back 200 years, said he felt compelled to at least consider a run.

"The opportunity for public service in Congress during this time of national crisis for the survival of liberty is one I felt the need to explore," Kinder's statement said.

Kinder declined to comment further.

Kasten cited Kinder's reference to prayer in saying he reached his conclusion for the right reasons.

"I was anxious to hear what the decision was going to be, and I'm pleased to get it from Peter, and I think it will probably be more unifying for our party," Kasten said.

Kasten said the country "desperately" needs to be straightened out, and she'll support whoever will do that, including Smith.

"Jason's done a pretty good job," Kasten said.

Smith won a June special election to Congress after the retirement of longtime representative Jo Ann Emerson, who succeeded her husband Bill Emerson. An Emerson had served in the seat since 1980 before Smith's election. Kinder was one of several candidates Smith beat to win his party's nomination, which was voted on by a GOP committee.

Kinder cited the district's electoral history -- that voters have chosen from candidates in an open primary after an incumbent's retirement only once since the end of World War II -- as another fact that led him to possibly seek the seat.

Kinder said he was "deeply humbled" by the people who urged him to run and pledged financial support. He said he planned to serve the people of Missouri for the remaining years of the term as lieutenant governor "and beyond."

Kinder, who is in his third term has lieutenant governor, has been in elected office since 1993, when he was first sworn in to the Missouri General Assembly.

Missouri Republican Party chairman Ed Martin issued a statement Friday describing Kinder as a "good man and a great statesman."

"The leadership shown by his decision not to seek the Republican nomination in the Eighth District is a reminder of his dedication to party unity and growth through 2014 and beyond," Martin said.

Urging by committees

Although a primary between Smith and Kinder was uncertain, several county-level Republican committees in the southern part of the 8th District already were encouraging Kinder not to run. Kinder's statement didn't refer to that opposition as a reason for his decision not to run, but cited the exhaustion of running another grueling campaign.

Late last week, the Butler County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution to send to Kinder, requesting he not run for any office that would cause him to vacate the lieutenant governor's office before the end of his term.

The committee's resolution said the group doesn't want to give a chance to Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint a Democrat to fill the vacancy for lieutenant governor -- one of only two statewide offices held by a Republican. That appointee then would be able to run for re-election to the lieutenant governor's office as an incumbent in 2016, furthering the chance the GOP's hold on the office would be forfeited for even longer.

Plans to contact Kinder with a similar resolution also were being made in Ripley County, though that central committee's chairwoman, Donna Kirby, said the committee's pending request that the lieutenant governor stay in his current office had as much to do with party solidarity as it did about worries about a Democratic in a statewide office.

"My feeling is we just don't run against our own when they are doing a good job," Kirby said. "It's not Peter personally. We would just prefer not to have a primary."

When prompted last week to comment on Kinder's potential bid, Smith said he already knew there were "a lot of folks who had been asking [Kinder] to stay in his current position."

"But it's a free country," Smith said. "Anyone can run. If Peter does, I'll be happy for people to compare my record, my character and my leadership to anyone who wants to run."

Smith also responded Saturday to Kinder's announcement.

"I appreciate Lt. Gov. Kinder's service to conservative causes," Smith said in a statement. "He is a leader of our party, and I look forward to working with him on issues important to the people we both serve."

Legislation that would have changed state law to require filling a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor to be through an election instead of appointment was vetoed by Nixon in July. Ironically, the bill's chief sponsor was Smith.

Before being elected to Congress, Smith, a state legislator, had filed the bill several years in a row, but this year was the first time the bill had been approved by the both chambers of the General Assembly and made it to the governor's desk. The bill gained attention in the Legislature when the question of how Kinder would be replaced came up while he was campaigning for the GOP nomination in the 8th District.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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