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State Sen. Brian Nieves is leaving the Senate the same way he entered it — by blasting the “establishment” and local Republicans that he doesn’t approve of.

The tea party darling and standard bearer for wacky behavior in the Missouri General Assembly signaled over the weekend that he would not be running for a second term in the Senate.

Nieves said he would make an “official” announcement next week but told his friends on Facebook that he was throwing his “FULL, Un-throttled” support behind Speaker of the House Tim Jones who has been actively campaigning and seeking endorsements in Franklin County the past week.

That Nieves wasn’t going to run again was no surprise. He had let a number of Republicans know last year that he was considering devoting his full attention to other interests and probably wouldn’t run.

In his Facebook post, Nieves took a number of swipes at Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who filed for Nieves’ seat after learning he was going to drop out of the race. Nieves praised Jones for not taking the positions that Schatz has in support of a one-cent sales tax for transportation and for “requiring you to be treated like a criminal when buying Sudafed.”

Some say Nieves is really just pissed at Schatz for screwing up the inside deal he hoped to swing to get Jones into his seat.

Setting aside the issue of whether Nieves’ endorsement of Jones will be a help or a drag on his campaign, a Schatz vs. Jones Senate race should be one of the more intriguing primary races in the state.

Jones has amassed close to a million dollars for a statewide run in 2016. As speaker, he is powerful and well-connected — the consummate insider. He could continue to cultivate that power base by staying in the Legislature rather than sitting out for two years.

But that is precisely why Schatz is running. He feels that the people, especially those in Franklin County, should have a say in who represents them and isn’t scared of taking on — whoops — the Jefferson City establishment.

Schatz has already peeled off a number of Nieves’ supporters including former campaign manager Robbie Brouk and former Sen. Jim Lembke according to a press release issued Monday. Schatz  is positioning himself as an outsider running against a career politician and the preordained, politics as usual, insider.

Sound familiar? It was the same tactic Nieves used in his Senate campaign although Nieves trained his arrows against John Griesheimer who he sought to replace.

The 26th District encompasses all of Franklin County and a swath of western St. Louis County. Jones, who is from Eureka, is said to have the edge in St. Louis County while Schatz figures to carry Franklin. There are more votes in Franklin County so the race could come down to whether Jones can capture any support in Franklin county. Jones is already touting his ties to the area including working at his father’s animal clinic in Pacific as a child.

Democrats contend there isn’t much daylight between Nieves, Schatz or Jones in terms of political philosophy. All are ultra-conservative, limited government, hard right Republicans.

But unlike Nieves, Schatz and Jones are more than rank ideologues. They have the desire and steam to effectively represent the district in the state Capitol. Neither is likely to make national headlines for gaffes or outrageous behavior.

Should make for an interesting race.