Did Sen. Chris Koster plant Molly Korth Williams as a fake candidate for Missouri attorney general? 

Editor's note: This column has been updated since it originally appeared on the Web on March 28.

It’s an election year. But Molly Korth Williams hasn’t taken the time to plant a sign in the front yard of her Brookside home.

This is a little strange. Because Williams is running as a Democrat for attorney general.

In filing the paperwork last month, Williams entered a crowded field of well-established candidates. Her qualifications to be the state’s top law-enforcement official are thin, to say the least. Williams has never held elected office, and she currently works as an eighth-grade teacher at St. Elizabeth School.

The surprise candidacy has prompted speculation that Williams is merely a name on the ballot to siphon votes from another woman in the primary, Margaret Donnelly, a state representative from suburban St. Louis. The other candidates for the Democratic nomination are state senators: Jeff Harris and Chris Koster, the ambitious former Cass County prosecutor who left the Republican Party last year.

Williams is obviously a plant. Only a fake or a delusional person would challenge three state legislators who have been raising money and campaigning for months.

So the question becomes, who sent her out as a stalking horse? Circumstantial evidence points to Koster. Molly Williams is golfing buddies with a judge named Joe Dandurand, a man who’s been called a mentor to Koster.

The magic of the Internet makes it pretty easy to connect Williams and Dandurand. A photo of the two of them together appeared in a 2003 newsletter of the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City. The photo shows Williams and Durand at the association’s annual golf event. Other newsletters indicate that Williams and Dandurand played together in a foursome in 2004 and 2005.

Someone who’s played in the tournament tells me that participants choose their own partners. The collegial atmosphere comes through in a recap — written by Williams herself — of the 2004 fundraiser at Teetering Rocks Executive Links. The story ends with a nod to the decorations on the “Swift Carts for Kerry” driven by Williams and her teammates, “although Judge Dandurand clearly states that HE was riding in the cart that showed support for all our brave military and expressed NO political position whatsoever!” Ha ha ha.

Until recently, Dandurand presided over a judicial circuit that covers Cass and Johnson counties. He was the judge on a number of cases that Koster presented as prosecutor. He was rumored to be a candidate for the Missouri Senate seat that Koster is leaving. But last December, Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Dandurand, a Democrat, to the U.S. Court of Appeals of Western Missouri. (Calls to Dandurand’s office and home were not returned.)

Koster and Dandurand are chummy, I’ve been told, in spite of their allegiances to different political parties for most of their careers. Dave Drebes, the publisher of Arch City Chronicle, a political newsletter and blog, described Dandurand as a mentor to Koster, in a story that ran in the St. Louis Business Journal last August. Drebes spent time with Koster last summer as the new Democrat campaigned for the attorney general nomination.

The Dandurand link and a lack of any other plausible explanation convince me that Koster or someone acting on his behalf prompted Williams to run. She appears to be as unserious about her candidacy as she has been about her law career. The Missouri Ethics Commission shows no record of her having formed a campaign committee. Her three opponents, meanwhile, have a combined $1.6 million on hand, according to the most recent disclosures.

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