Kinder's job, in Missouri and many states, has three main purposes:
- To put you in position to be governor or something else (see: Newsom, Gavin)
- To preside over and break ties in the state Senate
- Basically nothing else
The first ship has largely sailed on Kinder. He's topped out at LG, having toyed with running for governor in 2012 only to have his potential bid undone by a series of revelations, including a bizarre story involving a stripper. (Kinder also failed to secure the GOP nomination in a special U.S. House election in 2013.)
So he looks content to be lieutenant governor for the foreseeable future, apparently because he really enjoys the job and/or really hopes that the sitting governor steps down for some reason. There can be no other explanation for clinging to a job that carries very little real responsibility. If the job of vice president isn't worth a "warm bucket of (spit)," we struggle to think of an appropriate metaphor for LG, which isn't even a good steppingstone to other offices anyway.
But Kinder is hardly the first person to hold onto the job in the face of no real further prospects. In fact, he's well shy of the longest-serving lieutenant governor ever. While there have been only six four-term American governors and only one serving longer than that (Iowa's Terry Branstad), lieutenant governors have been known to linger.
The longest-serving of all time would appear to be former Tennessee lieutenant governor John Wilder (D), who served in that role for 36 years from 1971 to 2007. Of course, because it's the way things work in Tennessee, Wilder was also a state senator who just happened to also serve as LG, so that doesn't really count.
If we exclude him, the longest-serving lieutenant governor would be eight-term former Washington lieutenant governor John Cherberg, who served 32 years from 1957 to 1989. Cherberg also tried to be mayor of Seattle in 1963, but he lost and never ran for anything (besides LG) again.
There must be something in the water in Washington, because they love sending their lieutenant governors back for decades. Victor Meyers served as lieutenant governor for 20 years from 1933 to 1953, losing two Seattle mayoral bids in the meantime and then losing in his bid for a sixth term as LG in 1952 (he later served as secretary of state -- not exactly a step up). And the current LG, Brad Owen (D), has been in that job since 1997 with no apparent higher aspirations. Indeed, Washington has had only five lieutenant governors in the past 82 years.
Other longtimers include former Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst (R), who lost a primary in his bid for a fourth term in that job last year after losing a Senate primary to Ted Cruz in 2012. In contrast, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) turned her three terms as LG into something more fruitful, serving in Congress before becoming a two-term chief executive.
Before Fallin, there was four-term Oklahoma lieutenant governor George Nigh. His patience paid off, too, after the governor resigned to accept an appointment -- from the new Gov. Nigh -- to a vacant Senate seat. (Nothing icky about that.) Nigh's predecessor as lieutenant governor, James Berry, had no such luck, winning five terms after losing his first LG bid, but never ascending to anything else.
Others who saw the patience pay off include former four-term Georgia lieutenant governor Zell Miller (D), who later became governor and appointed senator, and 14-year Idaho lieutenant governor Butch Otter (R), who is wrapping up his second term as governor and was a congressman.