Rick Perry, Matt Blunt headline heightened GOP campaign to help Martin take on Koster
St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin is getting lots of high-profile Republican help this week, which he and his party hope will boost his profile and his bank account as he seeks to take on Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.
Tonight, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is headlining an event for Martin in Cape Girardeau.
Former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt hosted a luncheon earlier this week for Martin in Springfield, Mo., and since then has sent out fundraising emails to potential supporters with the aim of fattening Martin’s campaign bank account by Saturday’s deadline for the latest fundraising period.
A few weeks ago, Martin snagged a $250,000 check from Joplin businessman David Humphreys, a majorRepublican donor. And just this week, Martin has been honored by being selected as the state GOP’s chairman of its “Victory 2012” campaign.
“Ed Martin is focused, energetic, and committed to everything he does,” said state Republican Party chairman David Cole in a statement. “He is exactly the kind of leader Republicans need in Missouri during this crucial election year.”
Such praise is noteworthy because Martin has a Republican opponent on Aug. 7: Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren. As a rule, state parties generally stay out of primaries.
State GOP apparently siding with Martin
The current GOP blitz on behalf of Martin signals that the state party has decided that he’s worthy of its help – and potentially its best shot at Koster, a savvy political player who last reported far more in the bank: just over $2 million, to Martin’s $300,000.
“People are excited about Ed,’’ said communications director Gabe Jones. He calls the high-profile visits “a sign that people are coalescing around him’’ and see Martin “as an up-and-coming star in the party.”
Martin’s political career also has had its share of “downs.”
Blunt’s money pitch centers on Martin’s 15-month stint as the governor’s chief of staff in 2006-2007. “When Ed served in my administration as my Chief of Staff, we had success implementing conservative principles in Missouri government,” Blunt wrote. “We cut the state budget to avoid major shortfalls seen by states like Illinois and California. We expanded protection of Second Amendment rights with the passage of the Castle Doctrine.”
Blunt doesn’t mention that Martin left the post in late 2007 amid the controversy – and subsequent two-year legal fight -- over deleted office emails and the firing of staff lawyer Scott Eckersley. Martin denied any wrongdoing.
But Martin significantly improved his reputation in GOP circles with his narrow loss in 2010 for the 3rd District congressional seat held by Democrat Russ Carnahan. That seat, which is disappearing with redistricting, had been seen as solidly Democratic. Even with his defeat, Martin’s aggressive campaign gained him much GOP respect.
And within the past year, Martin also has shown that he can be a team player. He made a series of candidate changes, largely because of party pressure.
He started out as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, in hopes of challenging Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. Martin then switched to Congress in the 2nd District, but finally acquiesced to pressure that he end his challenge to favored Republican Ann Wagner, a former state GOP chairwoman and most recently the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.
That last switch took place in January, when Martin changed races to target Koster -- who at the time had no GOP opponent.
So far, Martin’s campaign has largely consisted of billboards attacking Koster as “Obama’s lawyer.” Martin has taken the same angle in his blizzard of news releases.
The GOP party’s support appears aimed at elevating Martin’s campaign – and putting Koster on notice.
There’s an edge to the state GOP’s perspective when it comes to Koster. He was a rising Republican when he switched parties in 2007, citing his disenchantment with the Republican Party’s heightened conservatism on social issues.
Many top Republicans remain bitter over his decision – especially since Koster is widely expected to make a Democratic bid for governor in 2016.
Koster has his own party issues, since some Democrats are still wary of his loyalty. (He tells the Beacon that he does plan to travel to Charlotte in September for the Democratic national convention.)
Koster has occasionally touched on the challenges of his party switch, but generally he has sought to publicly focus on what's going well. For example: even with the change, Koster has continued to be a prodigious fundraiser.
This week's lukewarm state audit was one of Koster's rare instances of public bad news. He publicly took note Thursday, for example, that his previous legal arguments about the Affordable Care Act mesh closely with the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision.
Republicans would love to knock off Koster this fall or, at minimum, present him with a tough opponent. Martin’s campaign says he’s up for the challenge.
Perry will no doubt point that out.