JEFFERSON CITY — Ending months of wavering, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said Friday that he will not run for governor and instead will support the newly launched campaign of Republican businessman Dave Spence.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Kinder said he has decided to seek a third term as lieutenant governor instead of challenging Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in the 2012 elections.
Kinder had long been the Republicans' presumed gubernatorial candidate, but his campaign was rocked by politically damaging revelations before it ever officially began.
Earlier this year, Kinder repaid the state more than $54,000 for lodging expenses after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported he had spent hundreds of nights at St. Louis hotels, some of which coincided with society galas, sporting events and other nongovernmental functions.
Then in August, after an article by the St. Louis weekly newspaper the Riverfront Times, Kinder acknowledged that he had repeatedly visited an Illinois strip club when he was a state senator in the 1990s. A few Republicans, including one major donor, called on Kinder not to run for governor.
The strip-club revelations led Kinder to delay his official candidacy announcement, which had been planned for shortly after Labor Day. Instead, Kinder said he would meet with grass-roots Republicans around the state to gauge his support for a gubernatorial campaign. He said in an Aug. 29 email to Republicans: "Before I make my final decision, I want the chance to earn your trust. ...Without your support I cannot succeed, and I will not run if I cannot win."
After re-evaluating the race, Kinder again had been making preparations to announce his gubernatorial candidacy this weekend. But those plans changed after Spence declared in an interview Tuesday with the AP that he is running for governor.
This marks the third time in Missouri's past three gubernatorial elections that Kinder has backed away from the race. In 2004, Kinder considered running for governor but deferred to then-Secretary of State Matt Blunt, who won election. 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 and advance the general Republican cause.
Kinder's decision not to run in 2012 leaves just two declared Republican candidates — Spence and former Kansas City attorney Bill Randles, who has not raised much money but has been campaigning at Republican events around the state since January.