COLUMBIA — Longtime public servant Chris Kelly said Monday that he “almost certainly” will seek a return to the Missouri House of Representatives by running for the 24th District seat currently held by Republican Ed Robb.
Recently retired from his post as an associate circuit judge on the 13th Circuit Court and 61 years old next month, Kelly said he doesn’t particularly like retirement.
“I feel the need to be more productive,” said Kelly, who has spent much of his free time pursuing his hobby of whitewater canoeing.
A seat in the House would be a return to familiar territory for Kelly. He represented the 23rd and 26th Districts as a Democrat for 12 years from 1982 to 1994, then accepted an appointment from then-Gov. Mel Carnahan to the Labor and Industrial Relations Board. He won election to the bench in 2000 and retired from that job in 2006.
Kelly also served as the Boone County clerk from 1977 to 1982.
Kelly said his pursuit of the 24th District, if it becomes official, would be driven by what he sees as a need in the General Assembly for someone with bipartisan skills. He cited a “poisonous atmosphere” between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature and said Republican lawmakers are “aggressively attacking the research role of the university.”
“I feel like I have the ability to make a difference,” said Kelly, who was the House Budget Committee chairman during much of his stint in the House.
Robb, a former MU economics professor in his second term, said he is unsure whether he would seek a third term in 2008. Robb narrowly defeated Democrat Jim Ritter, a former Columbia Public Schools superintendent, in the 2006 general election.
Robb refuted Kelly’s accusation of bitter politics in the Capitol.
“It’s much less partisan now than when (Kelly) was in office,” Robb said.
Duane Burghard, who ran unsuccessfully against Republican Kenny Hulshof for the 9th U.S. House District last year, said he had considered a bid for the 24th District, which represents part of Columbia and much of southern Boone County. But with Kelly’s decision to run, he decided to step down for the sake of Democrats.
“Both of us feel that it will be destructive to the party” if they both competed for the seat, Burghard said.
Kelly said he has yet to set a date and location for an official announcement, but he expects it to come late this month.
The position will be filled in the November 2008 general election. Primary elections will be held in August.