JEFFERSON CITY -Excessive government and relentless, negative campaigning has taken its toll on one of Missouri's most tenured officials.
On Monday, Columbia's lone statewide official, Lieutenant Governor Roger Wilson, announced he will not seek re-election in the 2000 election. And in the wake of Wilson's decision, Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, announced he would seek to be Wilson's successor.
"The nonstop fund raising and the acrimony and animosity that has crept in at almost every level is a lot different than when I came in and it's started to bother me more," Wilson said of his decision.
Seeking to expand the role of the lieutenant governor, Wilson has been supporting several pieces of legislation currently before the General Assembly. Wilson said due to his interest he didn't want there to appear to be a conflict of interest.
"There's an easy way to disarm (criticism)," Wilson said. "Just take the personalities out of it and figure out what we think is best for the office of lieutenant governor for whoever's the next lieutenant governor."
Aside from his lack of faith in modern politics, Wilson added his motivation has diminished.
"When I decided not to run for governor, I didn't realize at the time that that would diminish the fire within me for politics," said Wilson, who in the fall announced he would not run for the state's top office.
Maxwell, who a week ago launched his bid for state treasurer, said Wilson's decision cleared the way for him to announce his candidacy.
In his first day as an official candidate for lieutenant governor, Maxwell ticked off three main campaign issues: the elderly, small business and health care.
As of today, Maxwell's only announced competition for lieutenant governor is current St. Charles County executive and former Missouri Representative Joseph Ortwerth, who plans to seek the Republican nomination.
Sen. Bill Kenney, R-Lee's Summit, who lost to Wilson in his 1996 bid for lieutenant governor, said he is considering the office, but has made no decisions.
Despite Maxwell's status as the sole Democratic contender, Wilson has yet to offer a recommendation.
"I've always supported Joe Maxwell, but I'm not going to make any early endorsements," Wilson said.
Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County, who some had considered to be a possible candidate, said Missouri government is losing a valuable commodity in Wilson.
"I'm disappointed that Roger won't be running for lieutenant governor, he always worked hard to cooperate with Republicans," Klarich said. He also said Maxwell has not been as ready to work in a bipartisan manner in the past as Wilson had.
The governor's office expressed regret at Wilson's decision. Chris Sifford, the governor's chief spokesman said Wilson will be missed.
"The governor is disappointed to see Roger bow out, but he has to do what's right for him and his family" Sifford said. "The governor respects his decision."