Kit Bond will not seek reelection, says 40 years in politics is enough
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Kit Bond will not seek reelection, says 40 years in politics is enough

Date: January 8, 2009
By: Chris Dunn and Joel Walsh
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - In an announcement that caught even some of his closest supporters by surprise, U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond told the Missouri House of Representatives he will not seek reelection when his term expires in 2010.

The 69-year-old senior senator said what will be 40 years in political office is enough. Bond entered the U.S. Senate in 1986 after serving two nonconsecutive terms as governor and two years as state auditor.

"In 1973, I became Missouri's youngest governor," Bond said in his address to the House. "I do not aspire to become Missouri's oldest senator."

Just two months ago, Bond publicly expressed interest in running for reelection in 2010. But Bond told reporters Thursday that it was during holiday discussions with his family that he decided not to seek reelection. When asked whether it was his decision or pressure from his family, Bond simply responded with "yes."

"I've seen some people who've gone for half a century, and I'd like to retire while I'm still at the top of my game," Bond said to reporters. "Boy, I've got a lot of things to do in these next two years. I don't know how long I'm going to be there, but I've got things I would like to do with Linda [Bond's wife] after we finish this service."

Bond dismissed several questions from reporters about other possible factors in his decision:

Although he is stepping out of the political arena, Bond said he will remain active.

"I have decided to step aside, not to retire, but to pursue other things and do things which I think can be worthwhile," Bond said. "I don't have any plans now. I'm going to finish my official duties, and then I'll see what pops up."

 Bond acknowledged he had kept his decision a secret from even his closet supporters in order to avoid a leak. His decision was first communicated by a conference call to his staff early Thursday morning followed by a closed-door session with Missouri House Republicans before his public address to the House chamber.

"I was very surprised and shocked and saddened.  This is a major loss for all of Missouri," said Eastern Missouri's U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, a former Bond staffer. She said she learned of Bond's decision just a few hours before his formal announcement.

In the interest of keeping one of Missouri's two U.S. Senate seats in the Republican Party, Bond said he would work "to make sure it's one of our team."  Bond did not rule out a primary endorsement for his seat sometime in the future, but did not indicate any preferences.

"I know there are a lot of people who are thinking about it," Bond said. "We'll see who has the fire to do it, has the commitment and right ideas."

Among the possible contenders for Bond's Senate seat in 2010 is a long list of Republican leaders, including outgoing Gov. Matt Blunt, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves and former U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof. Hanaway, a former House Speaker and a former staffer in Bond's St. Louis office, declined to comment on whether she might seek Bond's seat, saying her position with the Justice Department precluded her from discussing political matters.

An MU political professor said there may be no clarity for Republicans for a while.

"I think many Republicans were caught by surprise by Sen. Bond's announcement," said professor Peverill Squire. "On the Republican side, I think things are still unsettled and probably will be for a few weeks."

Squire does project Roy Blunt as a strong Republican candidate for the Senate seat.

"Most of the discussion at this point seems to center on Rep. Blunt, who clearly has the name and financial resources to enter the race," Squire said. Roy Blunt is the outgoing governor's father.

Roy Blunt, who represents southern Missouri in the U.S. House, issued a statement on Thursday praising Bond's service to Missouri. However, he has not officially declared interest in or an intent to run for Bond's seat in two years.

While the Republican field for 2010 appears open, a few top Democrats were closing ranks behind Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

"Robin would be a strong candidate and a great Senator, and Democrats across the state hope she'll win," said the state Democratic Party Chairman, Craig Hosmer, in a news release issued just hours after Bond's announcement.

Democratic Attorney General-elect Chris Koster also released a statement in support of Carnahan has a candidate for Bond's seat.

State Auditor Susan Montee's office refused to comment on any interest she might have.

Carnahan, Matt Blunt and Nixon each released laudatory statements about Bond's political career and achievements, but none of the releases indicated any interest in his seat.

Bond has been a political leader in Missouri longer than any of the current statewide officers or legislators.

After his election as governor in 1972, he led efforts to restructure state government and adopt a package of ethics-reform legislation including the state's first open meetings law.  His aggressiveness for change, his relatively young staff and his own youth triggered criticism from some older Republicans -- including the late Sen. Richard Webster who caustically labeled Bond's gubernatorial staff the "kiddy corps."

Thursday, Bond returned to that reformist theme upon which he based his first campaign for governor in 1972: "Reform is a process that never ends and must be continually renewed.  We still see too many people in public life who are in it for themselves."

In his second gubernatorial term, Bond adopted a more conciliatory approach with the state legislature, forging alliances with Democratic leaders. In his announcement speech to the House Thursday, some three decades later, Bond stressed the importance of bi-partisan cooperation. "Dedicated public servants on both sides do have to reach consensus," Bond advised the House.

"Partnership is healthy when it presents Americans with different ideas about how to solve problems," Bond said.

Bond's political career has helped solidify the Republican Party's foundation in Missouri over the past few decades, as he held a statewide office in Jefferson City for 10 years and served more than 20 years in the U.S. Senate. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Bond counts his efforts to gather a bipartisan majority to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act among his greatest accomplishments in his tenure.

UM-System President Gary Forsee was present during Bond's address and following press conference, and praised Bond's work as a public servant. Bond's legislative work has helped bolster the university's standing in the agriculture and biotechnology sectors as recently as July 2008. He said he is satisfied with how the university is functioning as a recognized research institute.

"I really believe the key to the university's success is, the university has developed a reputation," Bond said. "It has the resources to compete on its own successes, and that was my goal to help them."

Claire McCaskill, Missouri's other U.S. senator, said in a release that despite party differences, she has "immense respect for him."

"There will be few people who will serve Missouri longer than he has or with such distinction," said McCaskill, a Democrat.