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With Martin at helm, pro-term limits group launches signature-collection drive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 13, 2009 - Ed Martin, the man of many political hats, is all over radio today announcing that one of his groups -- Term Limits for Missouri -- has begun collecting signatures from registered voters for its proposed ballot measure that "would amend the Missouri Constitution to term limit all statewide officeholders to two four year terms."

If enough signatures are collected -- roughly 130,000 for a constitutional amendment -- The initiative will appear on the ballot in November 2010.

Martin said today that the proposal has no major financial backers, and yet, and is not tied to the national group, U.S. Term Limits, although he has given the group regular updates.

About 60 people around the state have offered to help his group collect signatures, which Martin acknowledges is at this point a low-budget, volunteer operation.

Martin admits that his group's announcement is somewhat of a shot-across-the-bow at various Missouri Republican officials -- from Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., on down -- who have signaled they would like to see a change in the state's current law that limits state legislators to no more than eight years in each chamber.

That law was passed overwhelmingly in 1992, with Republicans being among the chief boosters at the time.
 
"We want legislators to understand they will have a high price to pay'' if they change the law, Martin said.

This proposal would have no effect on legislators. Rather, it would target four statewide offices -- lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor -- where there are no limits on their terms. (Governor and state treasurer already are restricted to two terms.)

Missouri has had only a handful of statewide officials who have served more than two terms in their post, most recently now-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who set a record by serving four terms as attorney general.

"Missourians have led the nation in the effort to term limit state elected officials and their will has served the state well as new and fresh faces continue to cycle into the work of leading our state" said Martin in a statement (sent before his telephone interview).

"But the work of term limits is not done: all state-wide officeholders must face term limits so that we continue to bring fresh air into government and chase out the stale and dank stench of bureaucratic incumbency."
 
By the way, Martin said his group had entertained the idea of broadening its term-limit effort to include certain major cities, notably St. Louis. But the group will need to wait two years to pose such an idea to city voters, he said.

Such a move might have put a crimp in the now-successful plans of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who last week won election to a third term.

Term Limits for Missouri is a non-profit organization. And it's among a bunch of others that also have Martin in a major role, usually president or chief executive.

Among the others:

Missouri Roundtable for Life (It recently terminated its political arm, but Martin says it is "alive and well'' as a 501C4, which is a nonprofit educational group.)

Missouri Club for Growth (Involved in anti-tax efforts)

Americans for Prosperity

As a representative of the latter, Martin will speak Wednesday night at the anti-tax Tea Party planned at Kiener Plaza, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Martin's chief concern, he said, is that the event "could be too big'' and attract too many people.

Martin appears to have not been cowed by his short-lived volatile role as chief of staff to then-Gov. Matt Blunt, which ended up ensnaring Martin in the controversy over preservation of e-mails in the office. Martin has been accused of ordering the destruction of office e-mails that should have been preserved as public records, as well as erasing such e-mails himself.

But that's in the past (although the law suit continues).

Referring to his multi-faceted political activities, Martin said with a chuckle, "I'm a man on a mission and I'm in demand."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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