JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's attendance at a Republican Governors Association conference is the surest sign yet that he plans to challenge of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2012.
Kinder was one of several potential gubernatorial candidates to join incumbents and newly elected governors at an RGA meeting this month in San Diego. Kinder confirmed to The Associated Press that he will not seek another term as lieutenant governor. But he declined to give a timeline for making an announcement about the gubernatorial race.
"So far the signals we're getting are positive, but we're not done with all the evaluation process and fact-gathering," Kinder said.
Nixon, who was elected in 2008, has begun ramping up his fundraising for a re-election campaign. He has a fundraiser planned Tuesday in St. Louis and more in early December in Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia. Nixon had more than $1 million in his campaign account at the start of October, compared with about $373,000 for Kinder.
Nixon will be on the same ballot as President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, both fellow Democrats. In public opinion polls during the 2010 elections, a majority of Missourians consistently disapproved of Obama's job performance. Nixon generally fared considerably better than the president on that question.
But Kinder said a growing number of people believe the state also is on the wrong track. Kinder has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law, and he has criticized Nixon for pitting public schools against the recipients of historic preservation tax credits while trying to balance the state's budget.
Nixon has ruled out tax increases as an option — something on which Kinder and the Republican-led legislature have agreed.
Although not officially a candidate, Kinder already is speaking in terms common to political challengers.
"We have a governor who is not leading in so many crucial areas," Kinder said. "He's been kicking the can down the road on many items. Missourians are looking around saying, 'Can't we do better than this?'"