(Updated 1:50 p.m. Friday, March 14)
State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, has dropped his bid for re-election – ending two weeks of political suspense about his intentions.
“I just went and pulled the trigger today on what I had been foreshadowing for some time,’’ Nieves said in a telephone interview, shortly after withdrawing his name from Missouri’s 2014 candidate list at 1:18 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
Nieves' action came just as the General Assembly had adjourned for its week-long spring break. He said he wanted his decision to be public before Friday night's Franklin County Lincoln Day dinner, which he plans to attend.
Now the question is whether Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, steps in. Nieves said that he has encouraged Jones to do so.
Jones said in a statement, "Based upon these developments, I will now take these next several days to discuss this opportunity with my family, my closest friends and supporters."
Nieves said that, contrary to rumors, his decision not to seek re-election had nothing to do with new career prospects.
“There is no type of new job or new opportunity,’’ Nieves said. He added that he is continuing to operate a management consulting firm and a leadership-development company, both of which he created several years ago. Nieves also is contemplating writing a book.
Nieves said his decision was tied largely to his desire to be at home more with his family. He added dryly, “I know it’s so difficult for people enthralled in the political world to ever believe something like this.’’
"I'm not resigning, I'm just choosing not to run for re-election,'' he added. "I am proud to have served in elected leadership in both chambers ... It's just time for me to be closer to home."
Nieves, 48, noted that he had been in the General Assembly for 12 years, and that he had spent 10 years before that in active duty the United States Navy. "I've had 22 years of public service and my family has been right there, supportive,'' he said. "I think it's safe to say that they're excited about me, quote unquote, coming home."
Nieves said he wasn't ruling out a future bid for public office.
Schatz accumulates donations in his bid for 26th District
His departure leaves state Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, as the only filed candidate for the 26th District seat, which takes in Franklin County and part of west St. Louis County.
Schatz upped the ante on Wednesday when he donated $100,000 to his own campaign. He also reported $62,000 in donations of $10,000 or more apiece from supporters.
Even so, a number of Republicans — notably, Jones and former state Sen. Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield — are giving serious thought to filing as well. They have until 5 p.m. on March 25 to decide.
Cunningham has said she won’t file if Jones decides to do so. Jones' last campaign-finance report showed him with close to $1 million in the bank for an expected 2016 bid for statewide office. But Jones has said for weeks that he seriously is considering running for the state Senate instead, should Nieves drop out.
An outspoken conservative and gun-rights advocate, Nieves had been considered a shoo-in for re-election this fall until a couple weeks ago. That’s when word got out that Nieves was thinking about leaving office instead.
Schatz has said he talked to Nieves before filing his own candidacy for the Senate seat on the first day of filing, although Nieves and fellow Republicans have signaled their surprise. Some, including Jones, have criticized the legislator for filing before Nieves’ intentions were known.
Schatz said two weeks ago that he filed because the 2011 redistricting had moved him into a different House district, and he had decided against moving into that district a year ago, in order to run for re-election this fall. So his only choice, if he wanted to stay in the General Assembly, was to file for the state Senate, Schatz said. He already resides in the 26th District.
Schatz issued a statement this week that took a veiled shot at potential GOP rivals, by saying he was committed to serve a full four-year Senate term. He apparently was implying that Jones may still harbor plans to run for statewide office in 2016.
On Friday, Schatz announced that he had formed a "Family Values Coalition," made up of conservative actvists in St. Louis and Franklin counties.
“Family values are what make our communities strong,” Schatz said. “That is why I have been a tireless advocate for our shared conservative values, including defending life at every opportunity and standing up for the sanctity of marriage. Too many career politicians like to say they defend our values but their actions suggest otherwise. I am proud of my record of defending our values, 100 percent of the time.”
The coalition members include:
- Former Nieves campaign manager Robbie Brouk
- Former state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay;
- Former Eagle Forum state director Lois Linton;
- Former state Rep. Bill Linton, R-Wildwood;
- Former congressional candidate Bill Federer of St. Louis County;
- Tony Pousosa, Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive
- St. Louis County GOP committeman John Judd and his wife, former state Rep. Earlene Judd
- Republican state committeewoman Jennifer Bird of St. Louis County