JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said Monday that she won’t run for Missouri governor in 2016, avoiding a potential Democratic primary with Missouri’s attorney general.
McCaskill said she considered a gubernatorial bid but ultimately decided she could accomplish more in Washington, even as Democrats are now in the minority.
“The work is too important, the job is too rewarding and too fulfilling and the trust that Missourians have put in me—giving me this job—I just don’t feel I can turn away from it,” McCaskill said on KCUR radio in Kansas City. “So I will not be running for governor in 2016.”
Instead, she said “it’s very likely” she will run for a third Senate term in 2018.
Current Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
McCaskill’s decision clears the path for fellow Democrat and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who already has been running for the state’s highest office.
The only declared Republican candidate is former U.S. Attorney and House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, but Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich also has been considering the race. That could mean a potential primary battle for the GOP.
McCaskill ran for governor in 2004, defeating then-Gov. Bob Holden in a Democratic primary. She lost to Republican Matt Blunt in the general election but was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
McCaskill won re-election in 2012 over then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin in a race that drew national attention after the Republican remarked in a TV interview that women’s bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in what he called “legitimate rape.” Although Akin apologized, he refused calls from leading Republicans to drop out of the race so that the Missouri GOP could field a replacement candidate. McCaskill later ran TV ads highlighting Akin’s remarks and cruised to re-election in what originally had been expected to be a close contest.
Speculation grew about a potential gubernatorial bid by McCaskill as she became increasingly involved in state-level Missouri politics during the past year. McCaskill’s campaign committee contributed $860,000 to the Missouri Democratic Party in 2014 in an effort to help Democrats win more seats in the Republican-dominated state Legislature. Instead, Republicans gained seats and hold commanding veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
McCaskill, 61, has built a long political career in Missouri. She served in the Missouri House from 1983 to 1989, and then served in the Jackson County legislature and as the Jackson county prosecutor. She won election as Missouri auditor in 1998 and served in that role until going to the U.S. Senate.