JEFFERSON CITY — Republican state Sen. Eric Schmitt announced his candidacy for Missouri treasurer on Wednesday, becoming the first to enter the 2016 race.
Schmitt is seeking to succeed State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a Democrat who can't run for re-election because he's reached his term limit.
Schmitt, a lawyer from Glendale in St. Louis County, has served in the Senate since 2009 and would have been barred by term limits from seeking a third term in 2016. He announced his candidacy for treasurer with a news release touting his sponsorship of tax-cutting measures in the legislature and his role as chairman of the Senate Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government.
The treasurer's office "can be a platform to talk about the broader issues of economic growth," Schmitt later told The Associated Press.
His announcement ends months of speculation about what Schmitt plans to do next. He had $866,000 in his campaign account as of the start of April but had indicated on state Ethics Commission reports only that he was seeking an unspecified statewide office.
Some had considered Schmitt a likely candidate for attorney general. But fellow Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia already has entered that race, and House Speaker Tim Jones of Eureka also has considered it.
Schmitt declined to say Wednesday whether he had considered running for attorney general or other statewide offices before announcing his treasurer's bid.
Schmitt said he entered the contest more than two years ahead of the election because "I want to do everything I can to put myself in position to run a good race."
Missouri politicians have increasingly been getting an early jump on campaigns. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster said in April 2013 — just three months into incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon's second and final term — that he was planning to run for governor in 2016.
Republican Catherine Hanaway, a former Missouri House speaker and U.S. attorney, announced in February that she also is running for governor in 2016.