JEFFERSON CITY - The state Republican party's spokesman resigned Monday more than a week after he compared State Auditor Claire McCaskill to "a cheap hooker."
The spokesman, Daryl Duwe, told the Associated Press he stepped down because he didn't want to take the spotlight away from the issues in the election.
"I believe this election to be too important to be distracted by me," he said. "Getting me out of the way lets the candidates and the media get on with the important issues in the election."
The "cheap hooker" characterization, originally posted on Duwe's missourigrapevine.com on Sept. 22, caused an uproar from Democratic leaders and politicians who called on their Republican counterparts to fire the spokesman.
Duwe blamed himself for the debacle but said Democrats overreacted.
"The only person to blame is myself. I think the reaction was stronger than it needed to be, but I'm the one that handed them the spear and they threw it back at me," he said.
Roy Temple, executive director for the Missouri Democratic Party, said Duwe did the right thing by stepping down, but the resignation revealed much about the GOP's candidates.
"I think Daryl clearly made a mistake (with the comment), and to his credit he had the honor to step aside," Temple said. "What's really disappointing in all this is what we learned about John Ashcroft and Jim Talent and the timidity with which they stepped forward to defend Missouri's women."
Neither Ashcroft, who is seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate, nor Talent, the GOP's candidate for governor, called for Duwe's ouster. Talent promptly disavowed the remarks, but Ashcroft refused to comment for four days.
Both were subjects of the Democratic calls to fire Duwe.
The GOP's executive director John Hancock said Duwe's resignation was officially accepted Monday at 4 p.m. but was given to party Chairwoman Ann Wagner over the weekend.
He said Duwe offered to step down right after the story broke a week ago. But in meetings between Duwe, Wagner and Hancock, according to a Republican party official, it was decided Duwe's resignation was not in the party's interest.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that after the story escalated in the media, Wagner decided to accept Duwe's resignation in a meeting last weekend.
The GOP has begun to search for Duwe's replacement.
Temple said Ashcroft's weekend denunciation was too little, too late.
"Mr. Ashcroft did that after four days of relentless media coverage in which he was editorially pounded by the major daily newspapers in the state," he said. "He read the political handwriting."
Tony Wyche, spokesman for Mel Carnahan's Senate campaign, said the GOP's reluctance to fire Duwe revealed their indifference to comments insensitive to women.
"If Republicans really cared about this, resignation wouldn't have been an option," Wyche said.
On Friday, Sept. 22, Duwe wrote on his private website: "McCaskill let Democrats parade her around like a cheap hooker."
He was referring to McCaskill's entrance into the political fight over whether the state's gambling revenue goes to schools.
Duwe later sent McCaskill, a Democrat and one of only two female statewide elected officials, an apology after she said the remark offended her.
Duwe also changed "hooker" on the site to "politician," but added a parenthetical phrase attacking the Democrats for their reaction to his original message.