JEFFERSON CITY - Secretary of State Bekki Cook announced Thursday that she won't seek re-election or any other public office -- leaving four state-wide offices without incumbents in 2000.
She said she enjoyed her time as Secretary of State, especially being able to restore the reputation of the office.
"I came here to get this office moving," she said. "I accomplished what I came to do."
Cook's predecessor, Judith Moriarity, was impeached. The Secretary of State is the chief election official, and is also responsible for record-keeping and registering corporations.
Cook said she looked at running for Governor, but realized it would be 10 years down the road. While she didn't rule out a future run for office, she said she's out of public life for now.
And citing one of the drawbacks to public service, Cook said she won't miss being such a noticeable figure.
"You can't even go into Wal-Mart at midnight looking too haggered," she said.
Gov. Mel Carnahan is disappointed by Cook's decision, said spokesman Chris Sifford.
"She has done such an outstanding job, he respects her decision and wishes her the very best," he said.
With Cook's announcement that she is officially out of the race, the door is now open for other candidates -- including Speaker Steve Gaw, D-Moberly. Gaw said he officially decided to run after Cook's announcement on Thursday.
"We've been thinking about the future for quite a while," he said. "It was contingent on whether or not she would decide to run."
Gaw has been Speaker since January 1996, and he said he will continue working on issues like education, cutting taxes and keeping the economy successful. He said this experience in the legislature would help him as Secretary of State.
Gaw said his biggest goal as Secretary of State would be getting more people to understand the political process if he's elected.
"We'll just be trying to get out and talk to people about how they can get more involved," she said.
Cook's decision now leaves four statewide offices with out incumbents in the 2000 election. In addition to the Secretary of State's office, there will be no returning candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor or Treasurer.
"It is a wonderful and unexpected oppertuntiy," said John Hancock, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. "It is evidence that the Democrats have a lack of confidence they could get reelected and now they are dropping like flies in a bug zapper."
Despite his party's joy, Hancock said,"It's a better day for Missouri tax payers, this gives us a chance to give the people a tax cut and scale down the size of government."
Two republicans have their eyes set on Cook's office.
Rep. Brent Evans R-St. Louis County, announced his candidacy last month.
"It doesn't affect my campaign, the issues won't change because my opponent has," he said.
A potential republican contender is Rep. Matt Blunt, R-Fair Grove,who is the son of former Secretary of State Roy Blunt.
"I know first hand, from my Dad, how the office can serve Missourians," he said. "I have been considering it before [Cook's announcement], and I still am.
Blunt has not announced officially that he will run, just that he is considering a bid.