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Lieutenant Governor Candidates

November 01, 2000
By: Suzanne Bessette
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The campaign for Missouri's lieutenant governor often is dominated by questions about whether the office is worth keeping.

But that definitely is not the case this year, when the state's lieutenant governor, Roger Wilson, became governor after death of Mel Carnahan.

Running for the job Wilson once held are two rural Missouri politicans with some fascinating life stories.

Joe Maxwell

RUSH HILL, Mo. - Just a few miles northeast of Mexico one can find the 760 acres of Joe Maxwell's childhood home in Rush Hill, Missouri -- a town with a population just above 100.

Today, you still find tidy rows of wheat, corn, and soybeans as well as a three-story white farmhouse, built by Maxwell's grandfather.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor was raised on this farm, worked the land from the age of nine alongside his father and twin brother, Steve.

More than three decades later, the family is still there. While his twin brother Steve still farms those 760 acres, Joe Maxwell has since moved on from farmer to mechanic to postal worker -- and then a leap to lawyer, state representative, state senator, and now candidate for lieutenant governor.

Maxwell still lives not 15 minutes from his boyhood home. His extended family forms a tight local network -- within 25 miles there live seven aunts and uncles, almost 40 cousins, and his mother Molly.

She works at the license bureau just down the street from his campaign headquarters. Every Sunday, the senator invites them all to his house for dinner. "It's important for my children to know their family," he explained. "I know that's a luxury in this day and age."

But if family ties have kept Maxwell close to home, they certainly have not held him back. "My personal attitude toward life is to have a plan and accomplish that plan," he said. In high school, the plan was to run the farm and open a mechanic shop with his brother.

While the Maxwells survived the farm crisis of the late 1970's, it was clear that their land couldn't support two farmers. "Joseph was a good farmer, but his heart wasn't in it like his brother's," Molly Maxwell said of her two sons.

So the plan changed. Maxwell started taking undergraduate classes part-time at the University of Missouri-Columbia while continuing to work on the farm, in the shop, and as a rural mail carrier, driving his route more than 100 miles every day. "He's one of the hardest working people I know," said Marsha Peery, who works for Audrain County and is a sometimes campaigner for Maxwell. "He's just got gobs and gobs of energy -- more than anyone else I know."

That energy was necessary to start each day at 5 a.m. It was necessary to rise through the ranks of the army national guard, a commitment Maxwell made at 17 and continued for over 20 years.

"My dad was a guardsman," said Maxwell. "He was a first sergeant, field artillery unit, and growing up I watched my dad and he was a sort of hero in my life." By age 28, the son achieved the same rank in the same unit his father had held.

By the time he graduated college, Maxwell said was intent on a life of public service. In that same year, he met his future wife Sarah through a campaign he was coordinating and in the Young Democrats Club. They both entered law school at MU and were married two years later. Maxwell was still a couple months shy of graduation when he started campaigning for state representative and won the seat. He was a state representative for four years and then won his current state Senate seat.

Molly Maxwell's blue eyes light up when she talks about her son's life as a legislator. "He thrives on it," she said. In the last 10 years, Maxwell has sponsored a small mountain of legislation (around 30 bills in 2000 alone) and is quick to point out the work he's done for welfare reform, Missouri's "patient's bill of rights," and protecting the elderly from financial exploitation.

But politics has not always been such a pretty picture for Maxwell and his campaign tactics have raised a few eyebrows even among the home town crowd.

Ron Deihl, owner of Dagwood's sub shop in Mexico remembers the vicious battle this summer between Maxwell and Rep. Gracia Backer, D-Fulton, in the lieutenant governor primaries. Backer's allegations that Maxwell violated campaign finance rules are still pending judgment in Missouri's Ethics Commission.

In the legislature, where Maxwell gets widespread praise, he also has been criticized for being too concerned about his public posture. Some of the harshest criticism was leveled when he appeared to switch sides on abortion-restriction legislation.

In 1997, he voted to pass a ban on partial-birth abortions, but then was one of seven Democrats who switched to sustain the governor's veto of the bill.

In 1999, Maxwell first negotiated with anti-abortion Senators for a partial-birth abortion compromise, but subsequently became one of the leaders in the unsuccessful filibuster to kill the bill.
Home Mexico
Wife Sarah, two children
Employment State Senator and practicing attorney.
Education B.S. MU-Columbia (1986), J.D. MU-Columbia (1990)

Wendell Bailey

WILLOW SPRINGS - It's been almost eight years since Wendell Bailey has held an elected position in state government. But Bailey is back, this time running for lieutenant governor. The people closest to him say he's back with a vengeance. "He's like the energizer bunny -- new and improved," said John Bailey, his son.

Bailey's return to a serious political contest may surprise some voters. But folks in his home town of Willow Springs -- the people that have known him literally his whole life -- say they aren't at all surprised.

Bailey is a home town boy who's made it big, a man who gets things done in Willow Springs. Steve Privette, the lone attorney in town, likens Bailey to a major-leaguer playing baseball in a minor-league town -- "he's way past Willow Springs." Or as his son John puts it, "Him staying in this town would be like someone who can cure cancer working on a hangnail."

Granted, the locals of Willow Springs are the first to admit that, Democrat or Republican, they're pretty much a partisan crowd. That's inevitable -- Wendell Bailey is such an integral part of this town that it literally would not be the same without him.

To an outsider, Willow Springs (80 miles south of Rolla) is little more that a single stop sign and about 30 seconds of storefronts, city hall, a few gas stations and a car dealership.

Bailey was born and raised in this town, met his future wife in high school, and inherited his father's Pontiac dealership (the only new car dealership in town) when he was just 25.

"We're an automobile family," Bailey said. "I'm basically a businessperson on loan to politics."

He started his political career in the late 1960's on the city council and then moved on to bigger things -- state representative, U.S. Congressman, and finally state treasurer.

Bailey counts among his accomplishments the creation of a lobbyist directory and legislation passed to combine the Highway Department and the Transportation Department.

But politics have not always been kind to Bailey. Voters might remember him as much for his foibles and outspokenness in office as his accomplishments. The most bizarre incident of his political career arose in 1985, when Bailey was caught trying to board a commercial airline with a loaded handgun.

And then there were the times he tangled with the GOP establishment on traditionally Democratic issues involving race. It was Bailey, for example, who campaigned as State Treasurer to have Missouri government's retirement system to divest from South Africa during apartheid.

And if twenty years of politics weren't rough enough, the last eight years of no politics have been worse. Bailey ran for governor in 1992 and for state senator in 1996 -- and lost both races in the primaries.

Despite the losses, in Willow Springs Bailey is still the big fish in a little pond and what he's done for his town won't soon be forgotten.

For example, without Wendell Bailey, the town's only nursing home would not exist. Up until 1980, the closest nursing home was 23 miles away in the county seat. Bailey led the fund-raising drive to create a nonprofit nursing home right in Willow Springs. 80-year-old Sadie Ferguson sits on the nursing home board and takes credit for helping to raise young Bailey. "He always has time for us," she said, literally with a tear in her eye.

Bailey's mark is also evident on the town theater, a turn-of-the-century building that was threatening to fall apart until Bailey started fund-raising for renovations. Now it's the jewel of Main Street. "Wendell always has a vision of something," said Joan Bailey-Russel, his sister. She points out the Fourth of July parade, another Bailey creation. "About five years ago, he just said one day, 'We need a parade' and that was that," she said. The parade has grown from 19 motorcycles to a full-blown display of local businesses, a marching band, and fireworks.

Just as he's made plans for Willow Springs, so does Bailey come bearing promises for reforming the post of lieutenant governor. "It certainly isn't working every day for good government for the people," he said. "It should be an active problem-solving office for the state. We're going to use it as a bully pulpit to speak out."

Bailey is known as a man who speaks his mind, but if actions speak louder than words, then it's fair to say that he's acting his mind as well. He gave up his primary business, Bailey's Auto Exchange, in early September.

That's his commitment to working full-time as lieutenant governor, and his confidence of winning the election. But you can bet that if this one goes the same way as 1992 and 1996, Willow Springs will take him back with open arms.
Home Willow Springs
Wife Jane, three children & three grandchildren
Employment Owner/manager of Bailey Auto Exchange (until Sept. 2000
Education B.S. Southwest Missouri State University(1961): Business Administration