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House Speaker Jones Drops Bid For Senate; Will Cunningham Jump In?

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, has announced that he’s not running for the Missouri state Senate – setting the table for a possible candidacy by former state Sen. Jane Cunningham.

Jones and Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, have been touted as likely candidates after state Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington,made the surprise announcement that he’s not seeking re-election to his 26th District seat.

Jones said in a statement Friday:  "I am humbled that when Sen. Nieves chose not to run for re-election, so many of my friends and supporters, including Sen. Nieves and many of my current and former colleagues in the General Assembly, encouraged me to consider running for the Missouri Senate.

"However, after taking the time to discuss this opportunity with my family, I feel that the best course forward is not to enter the race, as doing so would greatly distract from the important work before me.

“Instead, I will continue to focus on serving this year as speaker of the House, passing the conservative legislation that Missouri needs, standing up for our constitutional rights and working to have our voice heard in what could be another historic veto session.  After this important responsibility is completed, I will focus on preparing for a statewide campaign for 2016.”

Jones previously has said he’s interested in running for Missouri attorney general or for secretary of state. Jones’ last campaign report showed him with close to $1 million in the bank.

Meanwhile, Cunningham said in a brief telephone interview, “I’m looking at it and calling donors.” Earlier this week, she had announced that she wouldn't run for St. Louis County executive.

The filing deadline is Tuesday.

Cunningham said she’s also reaching out to the only Republican who has filed so far, state Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. Cunningham said she was aware that party leaders wanted to avoid a costly primary.

However, the 26th District now contains much of Cunningham’s old 7th District, which was moved across the state during the 2011 redistricting.  That’s why she didn’t run for re-election in 2012. She can serve another term in the state Senate.

In his statement, Jones called Schatz “a good man and…a reliable and hard working caucus member.  I wish him all the best as he pursues a new goal in public service."  Jones also is a longtime ally of Cunningham.

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