Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder had been gearing up to declare his candidacy for Missouri governor after the Labor Day holiday, but after an embarrassing acknowledgment that he frequented a strip club in the mid-1990s, Kinder said Monday that he plans to meet with residents across the state before deciding whether to enter the race.
In a lengthy email to supporters, Kinder recounted his accomplishments as a politician and public official and said he would not succumb to the quick calls from a few people to forgo a challenge to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in next year's elections.
"After almost 20 years of service, I am not going to quit now without letting the rank and file of our party be part of the process," Kinder said in the email paid for by his campaign committee.
But Kinder also stressed that he is not yet a candidate and left open the possibility that he ultimately may not run for governor.
"But before I make my decision, I will begin a statewide tour and visit every corner of the state and meet with conservatives, grassroots activists and all Missouri voters, while listening to you and your concerns," Kinder said in the email, which also criticized Nixon's economic credentials and promised to share details of Kinder's own plan for creating jobs.
Kinder added: "Before I make my final decision, I want the chance to earn your trust so together we make the difference you deserve. Together we can chart a course to win in November 2012. Without your support I cannot succeed, and I will not run if I cannot win."
Kinder's email comes about a week after freshman state Rep. Kevin Elmer, of Nixa, became the first Republican elected official to publicly call on Kinder not to run for governor.
Elmer said Kinder's strip club visits - Kinder acknowledged he visited an Illinois club about 10 times, about 17 years ago - had impugned his ability to provide principled leadership.
A Republican committeeman in Greene County, Tim Garrison, also has circulated an email among Republicans seeking a different gubernatorial candidate. And Politico has reported that Joplin businessman David Humphreys, a major donor to Kinder's campaign, has asked for his money back and urged Kinder not to run for governor. Kinder has said the strip club visits, made when he was a 40-year-old state senator, were a poor choice from his more youthful past. His acknowledgment came after the Riverfront Times, a weekly newspaper in St. Louis, published an interview earlier this month with former exotic dancer Tammy Chapman, who said Kinder had been a regular client. Kinder has blamed Democrats for orchestrating the story and the media for hyping it.
"Who should be the Republican nominee for Governor in 2012?" Kinder rhetorically asked Monday in his email. "I believe that question should be answered by Republican voters and activists, not the media, and certainly not the self-described kingmakers, nor the special interests and insiders."