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Maxfield isn't running

Mar 19, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Those who said the only reason he challenged term limits was personal benefit were wrong

When Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield filed suit in 2011 to contest the state's term-limits law prohibiting statewide elected officials from serving more than two terms, critics lined up to bash him.

Self-serving, they called it. He just wants to keep getting elected for life, said some. If he weren't about to be term-limited himself, he never would have sued, said others.

Then, when the courts agreed with Maxfield and the law was overturned, the same crows on the wire started cawing again.

Max wants to max it out. Eight more years, eight more years. The wisecracks kept coming.

Then, last week, Maxfield surprised them. He isn't running for a third term after all. The law he fought to overturn won't work to his personal advantage. He's retiring.

Why is it that when given a choice, we humans tend to assume the worst rather than the better, the ulterior motive, the lower value, and the lesser standard? Not everyone does it, but a lot of us do. Take a moment and ask yourself if you are among those who jump to negative conclusions. Perhaps you even practiced this tendency on Maxfield.

From the start, Maxfield said the laws governing term limits for Wyoming legislators and those governing the "big five" elected officials were inconsistent. He's in charge of elections in this state, and he thought the law needed to be clarified via legal review. As the top election official, he saw it as his job.

Could Maxfield run again? Yes. The lawsuit he brought assures that privilege. But he's not using it. In the future, however, someone else could. It's the law.

No one is claiming Max Maxfield is some kind of saint just because he is retiring rather than capitalizing on the legal reversal. He certainly isn't claiming that title for himself. But the facts -- not the rumors, not the assumptions and not the Internet wisecracks -- do support his consistent claim that the lawsuit was not about him, but about having a more consistent, fair and workable set of election laws on the books.

Now that's exactly what we've got -- not, as it turns out, for the benefit of Max Maxfield, but for the benefit of Wyoming.

The general argument about term limits will go on. But at this point it would be nice if some of those who teed off on Maxfield on the presumption that the only reason he sued was because he wanted a third term would stand up and say they were wrong.

But this is the era of potshots without consequences, so don't count on it.

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