Austin Crowe, an assistant Scott County prosecutor and son of local orthodontist David Crowe, has become the latest lawyer to ask Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint him Cape Girardeau County's next prosecuting attorney.
Unlike his Republican rivals, Crowe applied as an independent in a move that may remove political pressures for a Democratic chief executive who never has appointed a Republican to such a post.
On Wednesday, Crowe, 29, insisted his decision was a reflection of his beliefs and in no way is an attempt to gain a political edge over candidates Chris Limbaugh and Frank Miller.
Crowe is sincere in his belief, he said, that the prosecutor's role should fall outside the political realm, vowing to run as an independent in two years.
"I think it would be disingenuous to do anything other than to run as an independent," Crowe said. "It's a job that requires an independent streak anyway, where ethically we shouldn't be doing anyone any favors and not bring an outside agenda into the courtroom. It should be a nonpartisan job."
Crowe has voted for Democrats and Republicans, he said, trying to look at candidate positions and their backgrounds rather than make a choice based solely on party affiliation. He said he tries to make decisions based on who he believes is the most qualified.
Crowe made no secret who he believes is most qualified for this position.
For three years Crowe has worked as an assistant to Paul Boyd, the chief prosecuting attorney in Scott County. He has served as lead attorney on six jury trials and been "second chair" on 10 occasions. He said he is in a courtroom at least three times a week working in a system that sees the vast majority of cases end with a plea bargain.
Crowe graduated from the University of Georgia before obtaining his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a member in good standing with the Missouri Bar, according to its website.
Although he works outside the county lines, Crowe said he still meets residency requirements because he has commuted from his Cape Girardeau home to Benton, Mo. Under Missouri law, a county prosecutor must have lived within the county in which he wants to be appointed for at least 12 months before the appointment is made.
David Crowe, a well-known orthodontist in Cape Girardeau, said his son's decision did not come as a surprise. Crowe said his son has long said he would like to become a prosecutor in Cape Girardeau County.
David Crowe also liked seeing his son apply as an independent, which he said is a strong political statement.
"He thinks the job should be politically neutral," David Crowe said. "He wants people to know this guy represents all of us. I think that's a brilliant, if unorthodox, position."
David Crowe also is aware that one of his sons is more well known than the others. Taylor Crowe is an autistic man who has long been regarded as a success story, which he shares at speaking engagements. He is involved with art and provides editorial cartoons to the Southeast Missourian.
But if Crowe wants the nod from Nixon, he will have to nudge out a candidate who brings a powerful legal pedigree, and another who is his counterpart in the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor's office.
Limbaugh is the son of a federal judge and a former Missouri Supreme Court justice. Limbaugh passed the bar exam 18 months ago. If appointed, he would follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who also served as county prosecutors. Limbaugh is the second cousin of conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh, in a written response to questions, agrees with Crowe that the position should not be about politics.
"I view this position as one of public service where the decisions that are made should not be based upon politics, but, instead, upon what's best for this community," Limbaugh wrote.
Miller has been an assistant prosecutor under recently departed prosecuting attorney Swingle since 2010. On Wednesday, Miller declined to comment on Crowe's candidacy, opting to focus on his own qualifications. Miller also served on the staff of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson for five years.
"I've got the support of Cape Girardeau County law enforcement," said Miller, who won the endorsement of the Cape Girardeau Police Officer's Association last week. "I know what I would do as prosecutor, so I'm not really concerned about what other people are doing."
Nixon has given no indication when he will make the local appointment. His office has said the governor will not publicly discuss the matter until he has made his choice known.
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