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[This story was written and produced by Chris McDaniel from St. Louis Public Radio, used here with permission]
Chris Koster and Ed Martin both paint the office of attorney general in different strokes. 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 prosecuted thousands of thousands of criminals. I've put more murderers bars than I care to count. The courtroom experience that I bring to this job is critical to the job of attorney general and helps me in the training process and development process of the 200 lawyers who work for me. My opponent has none of this experience. He's never even tried a jury trial," Koster said.
But Ed Martin views the office differently.
"The job of attorney general is not a prosecuting job. Go look at his website, and there is not prosecuting on there. There's no place on there where it's prosecuting. He can stand in a picture and hold a shotgun and pretent he's something he's not, but the public sees through that," Martin said.
So, who's right? St. Louis University Political Scientist Ken Warren generally agrees with Martin's interpretation.
"It is true what Martin is saying. It is basically an administrative job, and the attorney general himself normally does not get involved in the act of prosecution," Warren said.
It's worth noting that Koster did not start out as a Democrat. In 2005, he was elected to Missouri's 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 US 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. Martin criticizes Koster for being Obama's lawyer by not being more tenacious and fighting the state requirements of the Affordable Care Act. But Koster disputes that...
"The Missouri Attorney General's Office filed a brief in the US Supreme Court that said very clearly that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. I think that the charge that my opponent puts out there is a political charge, one that is not accurate based on the documents we filed in the US Supreme Court," Koster said.
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, that in the history of America we have expected our attorney general and others to protect us in the balance of power--the sovereignty that we have as a state," Martin said.
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 being endorsed by the NRA certainly makes it difficult for Martin to make that assertion," Warren said.
Martin and Koster are joined by Libertarian candidate Dave Browning. Browning points out that he's spent more time practicing law than both of the other candidates combined. He says he's running to change the way government exercises power.
Now, 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 has agreed to a debate hosted by the Missouri Bar, Martin declined, saying he had a scheduling conflict."