Chris Koster | St. Louis Public Radio

Chris Koster

Chris Koster thanks supporters at his November 2016 election night watch party at the Chase Park Plaza after conceding to Eric Greitens. Koster would have almost certainly vetoed "right to work."
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Former Attorney General Chris Koster is headed back to the private sector.

The Democrat, who lost to Republican Eric Greitens in last year's gubernatorial race, is joining Centene as a senior vice president for corporate services. Centene is a Clayton-based health care company that’s become increasingly involved in managing Medicaid services in Missouri and throughout the country.

Provided | Alliance Defending Freedom

When Annette Kiehne looked for ways to make the playground safer at Trinity Lutheran Church preschool in Columbia, Missouri, she had no idea the plan would become a federal case – all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As director of the school, she just wanted to replace the playground’s pea gravel surface with shredded tires, which would be a more comfortable cushion for the inevitable tumbles from monkey bars and such. And the church playground qualified for a state program that was giving away just such a surface.

But after Trinity was judged fourth best of the 14 applicants who qualified to get the shredded rubber, state officials changed their minds. Because the preschool is run by a church, they decided, Missouri law bars it from taking part in a program funded with state money.

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster
Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Governor-elect Eric Greitens appears to have set a record as he outraised and outspent all comers in his successful bid for Missouri’s highest office.  He collected about $31 million and spent about $29 million, combined, in this year's primary and general-election contests.

But the final campaign reports, filed Thursday, show that Greitens, a Republican, was actually outspent during the three-month general election fight by his losing Democratic rival --  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End on Tuesday.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Republicans Tuesday night experienced their greatest triumph in the Show Me State’s modern history. And Missouri Democrats had arguably their worst night ever.

Those two declarative statements may seem like hyperbole, but it’s pretty close to the truth. Tuesday marked the first time ever Republicans won seven statewide elections in a single night. And with commanding majorities in the Missouri General Assembly, Gov.-elect Eric Greitens will be in a profoundly powerful position to enact his agenda – and to sign longstanding GOP priorities into law.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster, with Senate candidate Jason Kander in the background, and Republican Eric Greitens end their day-before election blitz in St. Louis.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI and Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated with late rallies) - Nothing illustrates the tightness of Missouri’s top contests – and the pivotal role of St. Louis area voters – like dueling rallies held within hours of each other.

So does the last-minute appeals by President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Late Monday, Trump tweeted his support for GOP gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens. Meanwhile, Obama is appearing in a radio ad and in robocalls for the Democrat running for governor, Chris Koster.

A collage of Missouri statewide and area congressional candidates on 2016 ballot
File photos | St. Louis Public Radio

As this election season finally winds down, St. Louis Public Radio is putting together a lot of the campaign coverage we did this year in the hope that readers can find the information they need before casting their votes. 

Screen captures from ads by Democrat Chris Koster, top, and Republican Eric Greitens
YouTube

If you think you’re being bombarded with TV ads for Missouri’s governor’s contest, you’re right. The Missouri governor’s race is the top state-level contest in the country, when it comes to ad spending, and ads airing.

That’s according to the Center for Public Integrity, an award-winning nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks political spending. It says that Missouri’s battle for governor, including last summer’s nasty GOP primary, is responsible for about 27 percent of the nation’s TV ads aired for state-level contests this year, and about 13 percent of the ad spending.

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster with images of money
Jason Rosenbaum and Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s $45 million and counting for Missouri’s two major-party nominees for governor as they head into the home stretch.

That’s how much Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens have raised, as of Friday, in their record-setting battle. So far, they’ve spent close to $36 million (some of it before the Aug. 2 primary.)

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster
Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s two major candidates for governor disagree on many things. But Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens do share similar views on the dueling tobacco-tax hike proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot. They oppose both of them.

That opposition could be significant, since whoever is elected governor will likely have significant roles in implementation of any of the six ballot measures that go before voters. Here’s a rundown on where Greitens and Koster stand on those issues, including some of their observations.

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster became the first Democrat endorsed by the Missouri Farm Bureau for a statewide office.
File Photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine years ago, Chris Koster was a state senator, a former Cass County prosecutor and a rising star within the Missouri Republican Party. Many speculated he would eventually run for governor.

And now he is running for governor, but as a Democrat.

Koster switched parties in 2007,  a stunning move that has set the course for his unusual political career.  He remains the highest-profile politician in Missouri, at least in modern times, to have made such a move

Missouri Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens gestures during a speech in Overland, Missouri.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s mid-afternoon in a VFW Hall in Overland, and Eric Greitens has a room full of veterans at full attention. Two Medal of Honor recipients, Michael Thornton and Thomas Norris, just introduced Greitens, and he’s about to provide the crowd with details about his newest mission: Becoming governor of Missouri.

On campaign stops like these, the uniform of the former Navy SEAL is often a blazer, an Oxford-cloth shirt with no tie, and jeans. His speech delivery is disciplined, sharp and deliberate: At town halls and debates, Greitens argues that Jefferson City’s political class has faltered and failed.

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster with images of money
Jason Rosenbaum and Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest campaign finance reports show that Democrat Chris Koster is heading into the final weeks of the campaign for Missouri governor with far more money in the bank than Republican Eric Greitens. But the numbers aren’t up to date.

The reports, due Monday, show Koster with $6.58 million on hand. That compares to $2.7 million for Greitens. But those totals are only through Sept. 30. Since then, Greitens has gotten $6.5 million from the Republican Governors Association and Koster has collected at least $1 million from various labor groups.

Hillary Clinton St. Louis union dec. 2015
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is sending $500, 000 into Missouri to aid U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander and gubernatorial nominee Chris Koster.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Monday the campaign is assisting Koster and Kander even though it acknowledges that Republican Donald Trump is expected to carry the state. The money is to be spent on radio ads, fliers and digital advertising.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For roughly a decade, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee was a firm opponent of campaign donation limits. When he voted to get rid of contribution curbs as a Republican state senator in 2006 and a Democratic state senator in 2008, he believed that an unlimited system would give Missourians a better sense of where money came from and where it was going.

But  Chris Koster abandoned his long-standing opposition to donation limits earlier this year and threw his support behind a proposed constitutional amendment that limits contributions to $2,600 for state-based offices. He says that the current system where million-dollar donations are relatively commonplace is completely out of control.

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster
Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, the Democratic nominee for governor, says he’s doing no more debates with Republican Eric Greitens unless Greitens releases his tax returns.

Koster made public his last four years of returns last week.

Greitens says he’s keeping his returns private, and he accuses Koster of backing out of any more debates because he’s “running scared’’ after their only joint appearance last week.

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster
Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Greitens, Missouri’s Republican nominee for governor, launched a barrage of aggressive attacks against Democrat Chris Koster during the duo’s first joint appearance. But it’s unclear if any of those verbal shots did political damage.

The two were among all five Missouri candidates for governor who participated Friday in a one-hour forum in Branson hosted by the Missouri Press Association.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and author, took aim at Koster’s 20-year political career as a county prosecutor, state senator and currently Missouri’s attorney general. Greitens contended that Koster was part of the “serial corruption’’ in state government.

At left, Kristin Sosanie of the Missouri Democratic Party criticizes Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens. Greitens' former opponent, Catherine Hanaway, goes after Democrat Chris Koster.
Hannah Westerman and Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Amid dueling news conferences held in the same building, Missouri’s two major candidates for governor are accusing each other of giving short-shrift to women, especially when it comes to sex trafficking and domestic violence.

Both candidates – Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens – were accused of displaying poor judgment on women’s issues and of accepting money from donors with questionable character when it comes to the treatment of women.

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster with images of money
Jason Rosenbaum and Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen much of Missouri’s statewide candidates on the road this week, here’s the answer: They’re probably on the phone.

Friday is the money-raising deadline for the last major campaign-finance reports due before the Nov. 8 election. Although money can still be collected afterward, the reports – officially due Oct. 17 – often are seen as a way to create momentum for the final few weeks before the public heads to the polls.

State Rep. Justin Alferman speaks at the microphone during Wednesday's veto session. Lawmakers overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of Alferman's photo idenitifcation bill.
Provided | Tim Bommel I House Communications

If you judge a successful veto session by how many bills are overturned, then Wednesday’s gathering was like a college football blowout.

That’s because the GOP majority was able to outflank Gov. Jay Nixon and his Democratic compatriots in the legislature on more than a dozen measures, including a bill that would implement a photo identification requirement to vote should a proposed constitutional amendment pass and another that makes it easier to conceal and carry a weapon. Unlike previous years, there was little drama – or much apprehension about squelching Democratic filibusters.

Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson listens to representatives speak on the last day of the legislative session.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies go guestless, so to speak, to analyze the lay of the land before the Missouri General Assembly’s veto session.

When lawmakers return to the Capitol for the Wednesday afternoon session, the two biggest bills will be a multi-faceted gun bill and legislation implementing a photo identification requirement to vote. But even though they haven’t attracted as much attention, nearly two dozen other bills could potentially receive veto override attempts.

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