JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder plans to announce his candidacy for governor on Sunday, joining a burgeoning Republican field for what is shaping up as a wide-open 2016 primary.
Kinder's campaign committee scheduled a 4 p.m. Sunday event near the scene of last year's protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson that it billed as discussion about "his plans for statewide office in 2016."
St. Louis County Republican Chairman Bruce Buwalda told The Associated Press that Kinder informed him on Friday that he will be running for governor and asked Buwalda to invite people to the announcement. Buwalda, who subsequently spread the news through an email, said he plans to join Kinder at the event and support his candidacy.
Kinder campaign adviser Pam Dixon declined to comment Friday on Kinder's upcoming announcement.
The only Democrat in the race so far is Attorney General Chris Koster. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
But Republicans appear headed for a crowded primary. The GOP gubernatorial field had featured just Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. attorney and Missouri House speaker from suburban St. Louis, and Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich at the start of this year. But the race was shaken up when Schweich fatally shot himself Feb. 26.
State Sen. Mike Parson of Bolivar and former state Rep. Randy Asbury of Higbee also have entered the race. St. Louis-area businessman John Brunner and former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens of St. Louis have set up exploratory committees.
Kinder, 61, of Cape Girardeau, has served as lieutenant governor since 2005 and was first elected in 1992 to the state Senate, where he become president pro tem when Republicans won control of the chamber in 2001. He currently is Missouri's only Republican statewide executive official and will be entering the governor's race with greater name recognition than the other Republican candidates.
He may need some of that renown to make up for a fundraising gap. Kinder had less than $57,000 in his campaign account at the start of April. By contrast, Koster had $3.3 million, Hanaway more than $1.2 million and Parson about $444,000. Candidates are to report updated financial figures to the state Ethics Commission by next Wednesday.
Kinder's announcement is to occur at a restaurant on West Florissant Avenue in Dellwood, near the border of Ferguson and not far from various businesses that were looted and set on fire in November by people upset after a grand jury didn't indict a white Ferguson policeman for the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who had scuffled with the officer.
Kinder has criticized Nixon's handling of the situation, particularly for not more rapidly deploying the National Guard to prevent violence. Kinder also has accused the U.S. Justice Department of "fanning the flames of racial division" after it released a report in March citing widespread racial bias in Ferguson's police force.
During his political career, Kinder has fared better than many other Republicans in attracting votes in Missouri's predominantly Democratic big cities and has touted the fact that he frequently "goes into the urban core."
Ferguson Major James Knowles III, who holds a nonpartisan office but has served in Republican Party positions, said he plans to attend Kinder's announcement.
"He's been committed to Ferguson and north (St. Louis) County throughout the unrest and very interested in moving the community and the region forward," Knowles said.
Buwalda said Kinder has shown an ability "to reach across racial lines" and has "earned the promotion" to governor.
This is the fourth time Kinder has entertained a gubernatorial bid.
In 2004, he considered running for governor but deferred to then-Secretary of State Matt Blunt, who won election. In 2008, after Blunt unexpectedly announced he would not seek a second term, Kinder immediately declared his candidacy for governor but withdrew two weeks later as a primary was shaping up, citing a desire to preserve party unity. Kinder was the GOP's presumed candidate in 2012 but opted out after a string of political setbacks, including media reports that he had regularly patronized an Illinois strip club when he was a state senator in the 1990s.
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