Tilley drops out of race

Steve Tilley, the Missouri House speaker who was seen as a heavy favorite to win the race for lieutenant governor next year, unexpectedly dropped out of the race Thursday.

The 40-year-old Republican, who recently announced that he was getting divorced, cited the need to spend more time with his two daughters “who are growing up fast,” Tilley said in a statement.

“Being a part-time legislator turned into a full-time job when I became speaker of the Missouri House,” he said. “As speaker, I have given up weekends and traveled night after night meeting around the state fulfilling my duties. Running statewide would require me to spend even a greater amount of time apart from my daughters, something I am just not willing to do.”

Tilley’s prospects were brightened by the size of his campaign war chest, which had swelled to $1.5 million by the end of September.

Tilley’s move sparked speculation that the incumbent lieutenant governor, Peter Kinder, might abandon his still unannounced bid for governor and try for a third term in his present position.

But party officials said Kinder, who has faced a series of controversies this year, remained committed to the governor’s race and a possible general-election matchup against incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon.

On Thursday, Kinder was said to be calling state senators lining up support for his governor’s bid. A formal announcement is expected this month, Republican leaders said.

Republicans named as possible lieutenant governor candidates include a trio of state senators: Brad Lager of Savannah, Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City and Ron Richard of Joplin.