Early ads focus on Koster in Missouri AG race

Monday, July 7, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The first ads in Missouri's Democratic attorney general's race focus on the credentials of state Sen. Chris Koster -- both touting and tearing them down.

Koster began airing an ad Monday in the St. Louis and Kansas City television markets that highlights his former job as Cass County prosecutor, where he says he stood up for victims. Koster plans to take the ad statewide later this week.

State Rep. Jeff Harris, meanwhile, began running an ad Monday on certain St. Louis and Kansas City cable stations. His ad questions whether Koster is a real Democrat, linking him to former Republican Attorney General John Ashcroft, President Bush and Gov. Matt Blunt.

Koster, of Harrisonville, switched from the Republican to the Democratic party a year ago.

As evidence that his switch is genuine, Koster on Monday was endorsed by Democratic U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., of St. Louis, as well as various other state and local elected officials.

"Chris Koster is the most prepared Democrat to effectively partner with local law enforcement to keep the streets of our communities safe and to stand up to corporate interests," Clay said in a written statement released by Koster's campaign.

Koster's TV ad never mentions his party affiliation. It concludes with a screen message that states: "Koster. All prosecutor. No politics."

But Harris, of Columbia, is seeking to make Koster's past partisan affiliation a key issue in the Aug. 5 Democratic primary. In their initial ads, candidates typically focus on their own qualities, saving criticisms of opponents until later.

But "it's not a typical election to have a Republican running in a Democratic primary," Harris said about Koster. Harris particularly highlights Koster's votes for Blunt's 2005 Medicaid cuts opposed by most Democrats. "I feel strongly about his actions on a very visceral, personal level."

Koster campaign spokesman Danny Kanner suggested that Harris' ad actually reveals more about Harris than Koster.

"I'm not surprised to see negative political attacks from typical politicians," Kanner said. "We're going to take our message to a broad scope of Missourians all over the state."

The other top Democratic candidate in the attorney general's race is state Rep. Margaret Donnelly, of St. Louis, who plans to start running TV ads within the next week. Donnelly on Monday criticized Koster's well-funded campaign as "the Republican attempt to buy our Democratic primary" and described his ads as a way "to avoid answering for his horrible record by saying that he is above politics."

Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, of Kirkwood, is unopposed in the Republican attorney general's primary.

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