COLUMBIA, Mo. — Columbia Democrat Rep. Chris Kelly will not seek reelection in his House district, he says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of his political career.
Kelly says right now, he is urging fellow Columbia Democrat Rep. Stephen Webber to run for Senate District 19, currently occupied by Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who will term limit out of office in 2016.If Webber decides not to, Kelly will “think seriously about running” himself.
Kelly calls Webber “bright, young, energetic and ethical,” which is why he says he’s “actively encouraging” him to think about the Senate.
Webber — who recently graduated from University of Missouri—Columbia’s law school — says his priority is running for reelection in his House district for 2014.
“My top priority is to do the job I get paid to do for another year this term and doing it well, showing the citizens of Columbia that their trust in me is well-placed,” he says.
Webber says he cannot imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t support Kelly if Kelly ran and Webber didn’t. But as for his own intentions, reelection remains priority over talking about a potential Senate run.
Kelly says he isn’t going to run for reelection for his House district, regardless of what happens with the Senate. Because of redistricting, the senior-most representative in the House no longer lives within the lines of his district.
“I would have to move or pretend to move, and I’m not comfortable playing residency games,” he says.
Moving to stay within district lines is a possibility, of course, but Kelly says he isn’t sure that’s what he wants to do, or if it would be worth it.
The current state of the legislature is “essentially unserious,” he says, where “hideously incompetent tax bill” or “patently unconstitutional gun bills” take precedent over the serious issues with Missouri’s infrastructure — an issue Kelly is very passionate about.
“I read ‘Pete the Cat’ to my granddaughter approximately 50 times this weekend,” he says. “I really liked it and she really like it, and when you weigh that I would be able to read more ‘Pete the Cat’ and go canoeing with my grandson if I weren’t in the legislature, that’s something to think about.”
Disrupting his family’s home, while possible, might not be ideal. And ‘Pete the Cat,’ he adds, is not a good trade off for “maniacal gun bills.”
“If there was any degree of seriousness to facing Missouri’s real problems, then it would be a tough call,” Kelly says, adding that there are more opportunities to face more of the “serious issues” in the Senate.
Leaving the legislature would be bittersweet, he says. Bitter in terms of leaving the public arena where he’s been since 1977, but sweet in spending more time reading ‘Pete the Cat,’ canoeing and even revisiting international work he was involved in more than 20 years ago.
Regardless of who runs, Webber or Kelly, Kelly says he’s sure either could win the current Republican-held seat.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.