Politics
6:10 am
Wed October 17, 2012

In Mo. Attorney General Race, Candidates Even Disagree On The Role Of The Office

In the race for Missouri Attorney General, the two front runners, Democratic incumbent Chris Koster and Republican Ed Martin, agree on few issues. In fact, the two have very different visions of what the Attorney General’s office actually does.

In campaign ads, Koster holds a shotgun to show he’s tough on crime. And in interviews, Koster often refers to the office as “Missouri’s top law enforcement job.”

“I’ve put more murderers behind bars than I would care to count," Koster said. "The courtroom experience that I bring to this job is critical to the job of Attorney General, it helps me in the training process of the 200 lawyers that work for me. My opponent has none of this experience, has never even tried a jury trial.”

But Ed Martin views the office differently.

“The job of Attorney General is not a prosecuting job," Martin said. "Go look at his website – there’s not prosecuting on there. He can stand in a picture holding a shotgun, pretending he’s something he’s not, but the public sees through that.”

So who’s right? St. Louis University Political Scientist Ken Warren generally agrees with Martin’s interpretation.

“It is true what Martin is saying," Warren said. "It is basically an administrative job. The AG himself does not normally get involved in the act of prosecution.”

Changing Parties, Changing Races

It’s worth noting that Koster didn’t start out as a Democrat. In 2005, he was elected to the Missouri Senate as a Republican. In 2007 he changed parties, saying the Republican Party had become too extreme.

Ed Martin has always been a Republican, but he has changed the races he’s running in. He originally planned to run against Democrat Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate, but dropped out when the Republican primary appeared to be getting too crowded with Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman.

Then he planned on running for Akin’s old Congressional seat, but dropped out when Republican Ann Wagner seemed too formidable.

"Obama's Lawyer" And An NRA Endorsement

Martin criticizes Koster for being “Obama’s lawyer” by not being more tenacious in fighting the state requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

But Koster disputes that.

“We filed a brief that said very clearly that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional," Koster said. "I think the charge my opponent puts out there is political charge, one that’s not accurate.”

Martin says that if he’s elected, in the first minute in office he’ll have a plan to stop the Affordable Care Act.

“My campaign has certainly centered on an argument that Obamacare and other federal intrusions are an imbalance of power," Martin said. "That in a history of America, we’ve expected the Attorney General and others to protect us in the balance of power – the sovereignty we have as a state.”

Political scientist Ken Warren says Martin’s claim that Koster is “too liberal for Missouri” might be a difficult charge to cement in voters’ minds – in part because of a key endorsement that Koster has received.

“Naturally Koster’s endorsement by the NRA makes it difficult for Martin to make that assertion," Warren said, chuckling.

Martin and Koster are joined by Libertarian candidate Dave Browning. Browning points out that he has spent more time practicing law than both of the other candidates combined. He says he’s running to change the way government exercises power.

Voters haven’t had the opportunity to see these candidates on stage together, and it’s looking like they won’t.

Martin originally hammered Koster for not agreeing to several town hall type forums.

But now that Koster agreed to a debate hosted by the Missouri Bar, Martin declined, saying he had a schedule conflict.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

  • See more stories on issues and elections from St. Louis Public Radio, the St. Louis Beacon and Nine Network of Public Media at BeyondNovember.org.