Blunt’s surprise exit not Missouri politics’ first

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 | 10:17 p.m. CST; updated 4:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt’s decision to stay out of this year’s gubernatorial race is in no way unprecedented. More than five statewide-elected officials in the past 35 years surprised their party and constituents by abruptly quitting Missouri politics.

In 2005, Joe Maxwell, who was lieutenant governor at the time, acted unexpectedly when he chose not to run for governor. Maxwell’s predecessor, Roger Wilson, dropped out of the governor campaign in 2000.

Former state Auditor Jim Antonio resigned halfway through his second term in 1984 to take a position with the then-newly created Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

“I didn’t resign because I hated the job,” Antonio said. “What led me to the decision was an understanding that if I stayed in office, it wouldn’t be possible to make a career.”

Antonio, who now spends his time fishing in his home state of Arkansas, said he respects any politician’s decision to retire.

“I can understand how you can get burned out,” he said. “But I’ve enjoyed it.”

Former state Sen. Larry Marshall described holding a political office as a “burdensome experience” for some.

“If you want to run for re-election, you start having to raise money as soon as you’re elected,” he said. “Some get tired of it.”

Marshall served one term in the state Senate during the mid-1970s. He said he chose not to run again because of his family.

“If I had stayed in the Senate, I wouldn’t have time for my two young kids,” said Marshall, whose children were 6 and 8 years old at the time. “I wouldn’t have gotten to know them.”

Rep. Tom Villa, D-St. Louis, who left office in 1984 and returned in 2000, said there could be hundreds of reasons to step down.

“To the outside world, people see the press conferences and the glamor, but there’s a whole other side,” he said.

Villa did not willingly leave the House, though. He lost the state treasurer election in 1984 but returned to the House in 2000.

“I can afford it and it’s fun,” he said.

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