JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri senator and St. Louis businessman both jumped into the lieutenant governor’s race Monday, moving quickly to take advantage of an opening after the Republican frontrunner abruptly quit the race a few days ago.

State Sen. Brad Lager and businessman Chris McKee both pledged to focus on job creation as they campaign for Missouri’s No. 2 executive.

Their candidacy declarations came after Republican House Speaker Steven Tilley, of Perryville — who had amassed a $1.5 million campaign account — announced last week that he was dropping out of the lieutenant governor’s contest. Tilley, who is going through a divorce, said he wanted to spend more time with his two teenage daughters.

The incumbent, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, has said he will not seek re-election and is instead expected to soon announce a challenge to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in the 2012 elections.

Two Democrats already are in the lieutenant governor’s race — state Democratic Party chairwoman and former state Auditor Susan Montee, and state conservation commissioner Becky Plattner, neither of whom has raised much money yet. After Tilley’s announcement, Montee said she was working with Democratic Party officials to find a new leader for the party so she could focus more attention on the lieutenant governor’s race.

Lager, 36, of Savannah, is in the middle of his second four-year term in the Senate, where he is chairman of Committee for Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment. He previously served four years in the state House, including part of that time as the Budget Committee chairman, and was also on the Maryville City Council. He ran for state treasurer in 2008, losing to Democrat Clint Zweifel in a close contest.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  1. Ed Golterman says:

    Chris and Joe did a nice job restoring Kiel Opera House but left it mostly unused, d a chip on the table for Checketts to use, to, up the price of his ‘package’. Chris:: come back in, find honorable St. Louis ownership, separate it from the hockey operation, and let it bring back Downtown. Then we will consider your ‘next’ step. First things, first. And, a piano in the lounge.

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