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Schmitt mulling bid for lieutenant governor, plans to decide swiftly

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 14, 2011 - State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, says he's "giving serious thought'' about running for lieutenant governor -- raising the likelihood of a surge of new Republican candidates in the wake of House Speaker Steve Tilley's surprise withdrawal last week.

Schmitt said in an interview this morning that he expects to "make a decision relatively soon."

State Rep. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, already has told the Beacon that he's looking at a lieutenant governor bid.

On the Democratic side, former state Auditor Susan Montee confirmed to the Beacon last Friday that she's definitely running for lieutenant governor, and stepping down this weekend as chair of the Missouri Democratic Party so she can focus full time on the campaign.

Today, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay endorsed Montee via Twitter.

Schmitt, like Lager, said he's discussing the matter with his family before announcing a decision.

Schmitt, 36, is a lawyer in Clayton with the firm Lathrop & Gage, which has strong Republican ties. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2008 and faces re-election in 2012. If he does run for lieutenant governor, Schmitt would forego a re-election bid.

Since entering the state Senate in 2009, Schmitt has made his mark in Jefferson City as one of the few moderate Republicans.

Although a fiscal and social conservative, he has embraced some issues that have split his party.

For example:

  • He helped lead the fight for the measure, now signed into law, that requires insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism.
  • He was a major advocate in the so-far-stymied effort to persuade the General Assembly to approve state tax credits to encourage the Chinese to locate a cargo hub at underused Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Schmitt noted that the chief job for the lieutenant governor, aside from presiding over the Senate, includes being the official advocate for various constituencies, such as the elderly.

Schmitt said he had not even entertained the idea of seeking the job until Tilley, R-Perryville, announced last Thursday that he was no longer running. Tilley already had amassed more than $1.5 million in the bank and had been traveling the state last summer in a campaign van.

As he mulls his options, Schmitt said he is considering "what is the best way to serve the state."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.