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Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put the rumors to bed Thursday, announcing in a tweet that he will not run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate next year.

Considered by many to be the party's best shot at flipping the seat currently held by retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Nixon said in a statement that he has "truly enjoyed the positive changes in my life and fitness since completing 30 consecutive years of public service.

"I am not running for U.S. Senate," he said. "I choose a different path."

Nixon, 65, is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for the Clay County Democratic Party next week. The planned appearance super-charged speculation that he was pondering a return to politics. He'd been talking to longtime aides, friends and acquaintances, gaming out the 2022 landscape and weighing his options.

But on Thursday, he closed the door on a political comeback.

"I always thrived on policy more than politics," he said. "My post-governor involvement on a myriad of matters is not filtered through a partisan lens — that is liberating, and I want it to continue."

A Democrat who served two terms as governor and four as attorney general, Nixon began fielding calls from national party leaders the moment Blunt announced his retirement in March.

His decision not to run leaves several contenders still in the mix.

Marine Corps veteran Lance Kunce, of Independence, activist Tim Shepard, of Kansas City, former state Sen. Scott Sifton, of Afton, and entrepreneur Spencer Toder, of St. Louis, have filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to run for the Senate in 2022.

On the Republican side, former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, attorney Mark McCloskey and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler have formally entered the race — with a litany of other Republicans publicly pondering a run.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization covering state government and its impact on Missourians.

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