ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has formed an exploratory committee for a possible congressional run in the state’s 8th District.

The Southeast Missourian reported Tuesday that Kinder, 59, has indicated a strong interest in the seat, currently held by freshman U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, 33, a fellow Republican. Smith has announced he will seek reelection, setting up a primary battle if Kinder were to run.

“Our country is in deep trouble,” Kinder told the newspaper. “We’re going to have to send our most proven candidates to fight in Washington.”

Kinder is a former state senator from Cape Girardeau and currently in his third term as lieutenant governor.

Smith’s seat in southeast Missouri had been held by Jo Ann Emerson since 1996. Emerson took over the spot after her husband’s death but resigned last year to become CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Smith beat out Kinder and other Republicans for the party’s nomination in a special election before handily defeating his Democratic opponent in June. He told the Southeast Missourian that he was surprised by the decision.

“I cannot imagine Peter Kinder challenging any sitting Republican,” Smith told the paper. “Peter has spoken out several times recently about the importance of party unity and the Republican Party sticking together.”

“Peter knows if he left the lieutenant governor’s office, Gov. Nixon would appoint a Democrat to replace him,” Smith added. “Peter has been in politics for over 20 years, he knows better than to give up his office to a Democrat. Also, I have always considered Peter a friend and I supported him in his primary last year and he has supported me in past elections. Friends just don’t run against friends.”


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