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Kinder drops plans to run for Congress in 2014, will remain as lieutenant governor

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder issued a statement Friday afternoon announcing that he is dropping plans to run next year for the 8th congressional district seat now held by fellow Republican Jason Smith.

Kinder’s decision marks at least the third time when he’s publicly declared plans to run for office and then backed off.

Kinder declined to give interviews but said that his latest decision came “after much prayer and consideration.”

The tone of his statement also implied that he wasn’t happy about it.

“This was a difficult decision,” Kinder said in his statement. “For 200 years dating back to the days of the Missouri Territory, both sides of my family have called southeast Missouri home. My roots and my heart are in the 8th District of southern Missouri. 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.

“And this impulse I felt all the more, given one salient fact,” Kinder continued. “This astounding fact pertains to voters in the big majority of counties now comprising the 8th District: Voters have had only one chance to choose their member of Congress in open primaries on both sides following an incumbent's retirement -- with plenty of notice to all -- in the 68 years since the end of World War II. That singular chance occurred 46 years ago next year -- in 1968.

“No other congressional district of which I'm aware has a history this lacking in chances for the voters actually to decide,” he went on.

Kinder then blamed the surprise retirement last winter of veteran U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, for continuing the “lamentable history” of party leaders – not Republican voters – choosing the nominee.

Kinder was among a crowd of contenders vying to succeed Emerson; he was the runnerup to Smith, R-Salem, Mo.,  in the balloting by party leaders last winter. Smith then handily won the special election June 4.

But, despite his objections, Kinder added that he wasn’t up to challenging that selection system.

“For me, though, there have been six campaigns -- one every four years -- since my first Senate run in 1992,” he said. “These include three grueling statewide campaigns, in each of which I came from behind. Ask anyone who's done it: A statewide race is exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally. An all-out run for Congress over the next year just isn't in the cards.”

He continued, “Politics isn't everything. In the midst of its sometimes frenzied demands, one feels the tug of Holy Scripture: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Sometimes this injunction is flatly incompatible with the pitiless imperatives of the political calendar.”

Kinder previously has stepped back from planned bids for state auditor in 1998 and for governor in 2008.

Missouri Republican Party chairman Ed Martin praised Kinder's decision to drop his challenge of Smith. “...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. "We will continue to see that dedication through his term as Lt. Governor.”

For all that, Kinder also made clear that he had no plans to step down early at lieutenant governor this time. He was elected to his third term in 2012 – the only Republican to win statewide office in Missouri.

“I have been humbled by the confidence Missouri voters have placed in me, with my being the only Republican statewide official elected in both 2008 and 2012,” he concluded. “I made a commitment, and I will keep that commitment to serve these four years, and beyond.”

So, is Kinder planning to seek a fourth term as lieutenant governor?

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.