© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

McCaskill Not Running For Governor In 2016, Will Seek Campaign Finance Reform Instead

DON"T USE TOO SMALL Claire McCaskill
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo
Sen. Claire McCaskill.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has ended months of speculation by declaring that she’s definitely not running for governor in 2016 and is endorsing Missouri Attorney Chris Koster instead.

“I have an amazing job. I am challenged every day,” McCaskill said in an interview Monday with host Steve Kraske on KCUR-FM, the public-radio station in Kansas City.

“I love the work, and so at the end of the day, you’ve got to decide. ‘Is the job that you’re thinking about going for, is it a better job than the one you have? And can you do more?’ ”

“And frankly, I’m convinced I can’t,” McCaskill said. “I am convinced I can make the biggest impact by remaining in the United States Senate.”

McCaskill said she made her decision over the holidays, in consultation with family and friends. She denied that she had conducted any polling, an assertion made by some Republicans.

“This was not a poll-driven decision,” she said. Rather, “it felt wrong to turn away from my seat in the U.S. Senate toward another job just because it would check a box that I was the first woman governor. That’s not a good reason to run.”

(McCaskill will remain in the history books at Missouri's first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Fellow Democrat Jean Carnahan was Missouri’s first woman to serve in the Senate, but she was appointed to the post following the posthumous election of her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, in 2000.)

McCaskill also didn’t say if she was influenced at all by the GOP gains in Jefferson City, which has resulted in large veto-proof majorities in the Missouri House and Senate.  Such Republican numbers are likely to make it even tougher for Gov. Jay Nixon, a fellow Democrat.

McCaskill called Koster “a terrific candidate” who can help “keep some sanity in Jefferson City.”

In any case, McCaskill said she now plans to soon begin raising money for a possible re-election bid in 2018.

McCaskill’s decision, in line withobservations she made months ago to St. Louis Public Radio, would appear to make Koster’s political life a lot easier. So far, he’s the only announced Democratic candidate and already has about $2 million in the bank.

Said Koster in a statement: “Claire McCaskill is the heart and soul of the Democratic Party in Missouri, and her commitment to progress for our state is unsurpassed. Creating a better future for Missouri is at the center of everything she does. Senator McCaskill is a friend and advisor to me, and it is a friendship I hope continues for many years to come. Claire’s voice for centrist principles will move the U.S. Senate and our country forward.”

McCaskill also appears to be making good on her assertion last fall that her real target is wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, who she asserted Monday is “trying to run” state government.

McCaskill took note of Sinquefield’s roughly $900,000 in donations to Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway and his $1 million contribution to a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, Bev Randle.

McCaskill contended Hanaway already is beholden to Sinquefield, and can't make a political move without his approval.

McCaskill is pledging to lead an effort to put on the 2016 ballot an initiative to reinstate campaign donation limits in the state and to curb lobbyists’ gifts to legislators.

That could put McCaskill at odds with Koster, who doesn’t support campaign donation limits. He does concur with her about the need to scale back lobbyists’ influence in the state Capitol.

Meanwhile, Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican sworn in Monday to a second term, told reporters he’ll decide by Valentine’s Day whether to run for governor in 2016.  He declined comment about McCaskill’s decision against it.

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