Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Monday that she will forgo an anticipated run for governor and stay in the Senate, where Democrats were concerned about holding her seat in 2018.
“I’m convinced that the biggest impact I can have is to remain in the United States Senate,” she told KCUR, the public radio station in Kansas City. “I will not be running for governor in 2016.”
She added that it’s “very likely” she’ll run for reelection for a third term in 2018. First elected in an upset victory in 2006, McCaskill defeated Republican Rep. Ted Akin in 2012 to keep the seat.
McCaskill said she sees an important role for herself in the GOP-controlled Senate as a leader of moderate Democrats, whose numbers have been depleted in recent elections. “There are only about eight or nine moderates left in the Democratic Caucus, and our job is very important now because Republicans can’t get a lot of things done if they don’t have a few of us,” she said.
Those centrist Democrats can use that leverage to make GOP bills more moderate. “If they try to go too far, those of us that are in the middle pull back,” she explained.
McCaskill said she did not conduct a poll to make a decision. “This isn’t a poll-driven decision. By the way, my poll numbers are pretty good right now,” she said.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is expected to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2016, when current Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon will be forced out of office by term limits.
McCaskill has long had her eyes on the governor’s mansion, and if elected she would be the first woman governor in Missouri’s history. But she said that was not enough of a reason to run. “It felt wrong to turn away from my seat in the United States Senate just because it would check a box to be the first woman governor in Missouri.”
McCaskill was one of three red state-Democrats eyeing runs for governor, along with West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp. Democrats will need at least four seats to regain control of the Senate in 2016 (five if a Republican wins the presidency and a GOP vice president gets to break ties), so the loss of red-state incumbents would greatly complicate those hopes.