Saturday, May 26, 2007

State AG Racing Shaping Up to be a Republican Bloodbath

Jay Nixon will be leaving the Attorney General's office to win the Governor's race in 2008 (Blunt has no chance, and may even draw a primary opponent), and the Republicans are lining up to take a (remote) chance on running against likely Democratic nominee Jeff Harris. More than any other, the Republican AG primary is shaping up to be a microcosm of all that is wrong with Missouri Republicans.

First off, we have Michael Gibbons, the simian South St. Louis Senator. Plainly stated, Michael Gibbons is a nanny state Republican who wants to make us all live in his world. The Republican party has a Libertarian streak that I occasionally admire - but Michael Gibbons is the exact opposite. He has drafted a law to prosecute families that allow twenty-year-olds nieces and nephews to participate in a Thanksgiving toast. He supported anti-consumer Tort Deform and reductions in the amount of compensation that injured workers receive. As Senate President Pro Tem, Gibbons gets and deserves much of the blame that Missourians are directing toward the ineffective Missouri legislature. He has no chance of winning, but he will raise lots of money from people seeking to buy favors in the Senate. I'm thrilled he's in the race, because he is unelectable and likely to ruin the bankrolls of the other candidates.

Chris Koster is a pretty boy candidate who seemed like he was on the fast track to Republican prominence. He's a smart guy, and even tells the truth once in a blue moon. “There is a sense in this building that if an interest group brings four really bad ideas to the table, we are obligated to pass at least one of them because they are our friends,” Koster once said when the insurance companies tried to gain virtual immunity for their misdeeds. Unfortunately, Koster's conscience tends to follow his own best interest. Even when his gag reflex was triggered by the insurance companies' avarice, it was only after he had started working for a trial lawyer.

Most damning for Koster, though, is that he has hired Jeff Roe. Roe has shown himself to be incompetent at anything other than self-promotion. His career is over, after he single-handedly sunk Becky Nace's campaign for mayor. Dozens of people told me that she was their favorite candidate, but they refused to vote for her because she hired him. One of the biggest fights in the Gottstein/Gamble race grew out of a rumor that Gamble had hired Roe - the Gamble people viewed that as poisonous slander. Well, Koster sunk his own campaign when he hired Roe.

Finally, there's Catherine Hanaway, the current US Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. This one cracks me up. Remember when holding the US Attorney position was a huge badge of honor? Remember when being a US Attorney meant that you were a straight-shooting, highly competent attorney who earned a reputation for integrity? Those were the days, weren't they? Unfortunately, though, the Bush administration's contempt for competence and pride in partisanship has turned that post into a scarlet letter on the resume. What kind of voter would vote for someone appointed by Bush now?

On top of that, she's another St. Louis county Republican. She and Gibbons will split the bankroll of Clayton and Ladue, and the votes of all the SUV drivers on the East coast of the state. Because she's much smarter than Gibbons, less dogmatic and mildly better looking, she will have the edge over Gibbons, and the race will come down to a divisive, ugly and horribly expensive contest between her and Roe/Koster. With Roe/Koster in the race, we can be assured that mud-slinging and nastiness will alienate anyone who ever thought of voting for a Republican.

In a way, it's almost a shame. Jeff Harris, the Democratic candidate, is smart, well-respected, likeable, and well-informed. He's not a good candidate - he's a great candidate. For those of us who like watching good races, it's a shame he is going to face such weak competition.