Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said Friday he won't challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Jason Smith for a southeast Missouri congressional seat next year, relieving Republicans of a potentially costly primary.
Kinder issued a written statement announcing his decision about a month after he first publicly said he was considering a bid for the 8th Congressional District. He said Friday he had wanted to explore the opportunity to serve in Congress, but he also noted he already has been through three grueling statewide campaigns.
"A statewide race is exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally. An all-out run for Congress over the next year just isn't in the cards," Kinder said.
"Politics isn't everything," Kinder added. "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, of Cape Girardeau, won election last year to a third term as lieutenant governor. He said Friday he plans to serve the remainder of that term, which runs until January 2017.
Earlier this year, Smith prevailed over Kinder and several others when an 84-person committee of local Republican leaders selected a candidate to succeed U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who resigned in January. Smith, who at the time was the second-ranking official in the Missouri House, then defeated Democratic state Rep. Steve Hodges in a special election for Congress.
Smith, 33, of Salem, is one of the youngest and newest U.S. House members. But he has quickly reaped the financial benefits of an incumbent. In mid-October, Smith reported he had raised $254,200 from July through September and, after expenses, had $159,206 remaining in his campaign account as of Sept. 30.
Smith's finance report showed he paid $2,500 in late August to the political consulting firm of David Barklage, who was Kinder's longtime consultant.
Although Kinder had more than $55,000 remaining in his lieutenant governor's campaign committee, he would have been starting from scratch financially because federal candidates cannot transfer over the balance of campaign funds raised for state offices.
Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin issued a statement Friday describing Kinder as a "good man and a great statesman."
"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.
Kinder first won election to the state Senate in 1992 and became the chamber's president pro tem when Republicans won control of the chamber in 2001. Since then, Kinder has repeatedly stepped aside from contentious intraparty campaigns.
Kinder considered running for governor in 2004 but deferred to then-Secretary of State Matt Blunt, who won election. Instead, Kinder ran for and won an open lieutenant governor's seat.
In 2008, after Blunt unexpectedly announced he would not seek a second term, Kinder immediately declared his candidacy for governor and stressed that he was in the race to stay. Yet two weeks later, Kinder dropped out of the gubernatorial primary and instead said he would seek re-election, citing a desire to preserve party unity.
Kinder had been the Republicans' presumed and uncontested candidate for governor in the 2012 election. But Kinder bowed out of the race in November 2011 after a series of political setbacks, including an acknowledgement that he had been a regular patron at a strip club while serving as a state senator. Kinder instead sought and won re-election, despite facing a primary challenge.