JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell will forgo a re-election bid next year in order to better care for his wife, who is suffering from a painfully debilitating -- but as yet undiagnosed -- illness.
During a news conference Tuesday in his Capitol office, Maxwell, a Democrat, said the rigors of an election campaign would put too many demands on his time given his wife's condition.
"Right now, there are other challenges in my life that as a husband and a father, I must put first," Maxwell said.
His wife, Sarah, 38, began experiencing severe pain in her hips in January and the problem has since spread to other areas of her body, her husband said. Despite ongoing consultations with doctors, the exact nature of the affliction remains unknown. Maxwell said it was some type of nerve or bone condition. He said they hoped to learn more from doctors Friday.
Maxwell and his family, which includes two daughters, ages 7 and 12, decided he should serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2005.
"The one thing that could go was re-election," Maxwell said.
His departure from the race for the moment leaves Democrats without a candidate for lieutenant governor and could spark additional interest from Republicans now that there won't be an incumbent to challenge.
Maxwell said that in the coming days he expects to talk with Gov. Bob Holden and other Democratic Party leaders about a possible replacement candidate.
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau plans to seek the Republican nomination for the post. So far, he is the only person who has announced intentions to run for lieutenant governor.
Kinder said he was "shocked and saddened" by Maxwell's announcement and saluted him for putting his family first.
Though Maxwell's decision injects a number of unknown factors into the race, Kinder still intends to run.
"My plans will go forward amid thoughts and prayers for the Maxwell family," Kinder said.
After spending 10 years as a state representative and then a senator, Maxwell, 46, was elected lieutenant governor in November 2000. Though his term didn't begin until the following January, he took office a week after the election through an appointment by Gov. Roger Wilson. A vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office had resulted when Wilson took the top job following the death of Gov. Mel Carnahan.
In the spring, Maxwell had considered but rejected calls by Democratic leaders to run for the U.S. Senate next year against incumbent Republican Kit Bond. He had made no secret of his desire to run for governor in 2008.
While his political ambitions are on hold, Maxwell said he still hopes pursue higher office at a later date should his wife's health allow it.
"We're hopeful that Sarah will be able to have treatment that allows her to come back to strength, and we'll look at what options we'll have for the future," Maxwell said. "We don't plan on retiring from politics."