The race for attorney general–Missouri’s next chief legal counsel
By: Mary Ann OToole Holley
This fall, two St. Louisans are vying for the role of attorney general – incumbent Chris Koster and newcomer Ed Martin.
Koster is a native son. He was born and raised in St. Louis. He received a liberal arts degree from the University of Missouri in 1987 and his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1991.
Additionally, he earned a master’s in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002.
Martin did not grow up here, but today he and his wife, Carol, call St. Louis home.
“I came here to go to Saint Louis University law school,” Martin said. “Then I worked for the Catholic Church (the Archdiocese of St. Louis) in the human rights office.”
Martin also was a lawyer in the St. Louis law offices of Bryan Cave and currently is in private practice.
Both are passionate about the work they have done and their pursuit of the attorney general’s office. Both are equally passionate about what they believe are each other’s shortcomings.
Koster puts emphasis on his role as a prosecutor, stressing the strides he says he has made in prosecuting fraudulent Medicaid providers; cracking down on violations of workers’ rights; aggressively enforcing Missouri’s environmental laws; and supporting law enforcement in fighting the spread of methamphetamines and preventing urban crime.
He says Martin “has no law enforcement experience, has never prosecuted a case and knows virtually nothing about the attorney general’s office and its importance.”
Martin, however, says the job of attorney general is not about prosecuting.
“Most of the job is practicing law for the state,” he said. “Actually most of the job, if you look back in history, is … to stand up for the laws of the state and the Constitution, and that’s another one of the things that Koster hasn’t done.”
As for experience, Martin said, “There’s almost never been an attorney general candidate who has the breadth of experience in terms of the big law firm, solo practice and then having been chief of staff.”
In addition to defining himself as a successful prosecutor, Koster is a strong advocate for fair labor laws.
He says he has successfully prosecuted more prevailing wage violations than any other prosecutor in the history of the state and has cracked down on violations of workers’ rights.
He said he has been a friend of the working class since the beginning of his career as a Republican prosecuting attorney for Cass County. When he found his supportive views on labor standards had no support in the state Senate, he switched parties and ran for attorney general as a Democrat.
“I have made it a policy to make about 100 phone calls a month to business agents all over the state, and I have found it very useful in keeping my ear to the ground in communities all over Missouri,” Koster said, backing up his claim that his office understands the importance of enforcing labor laws.
Martin puts his focus on the four initiatives outlined on his campaign website: veteran affairs, the size of government, irresponsible government and crime.
“People say, ‘Veterans? How does the attorney general fit in?’ Well, the attorney general in Virginia has a program acknowledging that there are an awful lot of veterans coming home from these two wars with mental health issues and PTSD. He put up a program that did two things: one is it helps veterans and military personnel understand their rights and in so far as their state rights, state obligations, helped them get plugged in to things like department of social services, department of mental health. These are big issues,” Martin said.
In regard to the size of government, he added, “Protection of government overreach as attorney general means you’re on the side of the individual and the people of Missouri against things like the federal government and the EPA, the federal government and Obamacare, but also making sure that there’s not eminent domain abuse.”
As noted, both candidates are passionate about the issues as they see them; however, what elections come down to is the voter’s view. On Nov. 6, all eyes will be on the men from St. Louis as Missourians head to the polls to select the state’s chief legal counsel.
For election results on this race and all others, visit newsmagazinenetwork.com on election night.