JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After two decades of helping to build the Republican Party into a powerful force throughout Southeast Missouri, Lloyd Smith may make his own bid for elected office in 2004.
Fresh from managing U.S. Sen. Jim Talent's successful statewide campaign, Smith said he is considering running for the Missouri Senate seat currently held by Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.
"I'm talking with a few people in Cape Girardeau and Sikeston about running for the Senate in '04," Smith said. "I'm going to take a serious look at it after the first of the year."
Kinder, who is ineligible for re-election because of term limits, said he is "thrilled" at the prospect of Smith taking his seat.
"Lloyd Smith would make a great senator for us all," Kinder said. "If that is where he wants to take his career, I believe it is winnable for him."
State Reps. Pat Naeger of Perryville and Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau have also expressed interest in seeking the GOP nomination for the seat, which represents Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, New Madrid, Perry and Scott counties. No possible Democratic hopefuls have yet emerged.
Smith, 51, recently returned to work as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau. Smith has served Emerson and her late husband and predecessor Bill Emerson since 1981 and played a key role in the creation of a political organization that has given Republicans a firm hold on Southeast Missouri.
He left Emerson's staff last spring to run Talent's Senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan.
Turned down Talent offer
Smith said he declined an offer to become Talent's chief of staff. While as Emerson's chief of staff he is able to continue to live in Sikeston and work out of Cape Girardeau, holding that post for a U.S. senator would have required him to be in Washington, D.C., full time.
"Jim and I talked about that and that was an option," Smith said. "But if I had wanted to move to Washington, I would've done that a long time ago."
He will continue to do some political work for Talent in his spare time.
A bid for state Senate isn't a certainty, Smith said, and his options for the next election cycle include managing another Republican's statewide campaign.
One option that definitely isn't in the cards for 2004 is a run for Emerson's 8th District seat in Congress.
"I expect Jo Ann to be the congressperson for the 8th District for at least a few more terms," Smith said.
However, he and Emerson have discussed the possibility of him running for the seat should she ever decide to step down.
"I would love the opportunity to at some point be the person casting the vote," Smith said. "If that seat is open in the future, I would certainly look at it."