JEFFERSON CITY — Former Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that he won’t jump into Missouri’s high-profile race for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
Nixon, a Democrat who served as governor between 2009 and 2017, said in a statement: “I am not running for U.S. Senate. I choose a different path.
“While I deeply appreciate the many people who have reached out and acknowledging folks’ angst about the track of our country’s divisive politics, I believe I will be more effective outside of this partisan back-and-forth,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s decision means lesser-known Democrats will continue to compete among themselves for their party’s nomination in August 2022.
Former state Sen. Scott Sifton of St. Louis; Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran; Timothy Shepard, an activist; Jewel Kelly Jr., an Air Force veteran; and Spencer Toder, a businessman, are running as Democrats.
Some had speculated that Nixon, one of the last Democrats to win a statewide race in Missouri, would help put the Senate race in play for Democrats in a state viewed as increasingly Republican.
But whether he could assemble a winning coalition of rural, suburban and urban voters was an open question. He received heavy criticism in 2014 for the state’s response to unrest in Ferguson following the killing of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer Darren Wilson.
Nixon was scheduled to speak next month at a meeting of the Clay County Democrats.
Rep. Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty, who is helping to put on the August event, chose his words carefully when asked whether he was disappointed Nixon wasn’t running.
“I look forward to any advice or counsel that he might be able to give, whoever our nominee might be,” Ellebracht said. “Anybody with his kind of experience and background in Missouri politics obviously knows what they’re doing and knows how to win races.”
Other Democrats sought to build support for their campaigns in the wake of Nixon’s announcement.
“To beat Eric Greitens it is going to take a Democrat from Missouri who knows how to win tough races in Missouri and has shown the ability to go toe to toe with Greitens,” Sifton said, referring to the GOP ex-governor who is running for Senate. “I’m the best-positioned candidate to do that.”
“I can bridge the gap between parties and fight for access to health care, better education and accountable government,” Toder said. “I speak up for all Missourians, regardless of ZIP code, and will be the 51st vote in the Senate that brings necessary change.”
In addition to Greitens, the Republican field includes state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and attorney Mark McCloskey.