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Alas, it costs almost nothing at all to confuse voters. Williams presence on the ballot creates another option for voters who tend to support women but may not take the time to study each candidates qualifications.
In a phone call, Williams insists that her candidacy is legitimate. "I'd like to serve the people of the state of Missouri," she tells me. A lawyer in good standing, Williams says she has had a "long, varied" legal career and has "temporarily" chosen to teach at her daughter's school. "I love doing it," she says.
Williams denies that she was prompted to run by anyone from Kosters camp. But she is unable to discuss the specific things she would like to accomplish if elected. At this point, her candidacy amounts to little more than a declaration of eagerness and her outsider status. Im a lawyer, she says. Im not a politician.
Kosters campaign offers a nondenial denial when asked about Williams candidacy and the speculation that shes only a distraction.
If she wants to run, thats her right, Koster spokeswoman Rebecca Kirszner tells me. But no matter how many candidates are in this race, Chris Koster stands ahead of the pack. Hes the only candidate with real prosecuting experience and the only one with a message that appeals to the real issues voters face.
Admittedly, the evidence against Koster wouldnt hold up in court. But Molly Williams candidacy is too cheesy and appalling to ignore. Stunts like these are politicians ways of thrusting their middle fingers at the democratic process they claim, through capped teeth, to cherish.
This is the one of the oldest and lamest tricks in the books, says Richard Martin, chairman of Margaret Donnellys campaign. Martin says Williams candidacy is the kind of thing you see in local races, not statewide elections. Were running for attorney general, not tax collector or dog catcher.
And its not as if Koster has built up much of a reputation for authenticity. Hes a serial office climber who first announced a run for attorney general in 1995, when he had been prosecuting crimes in Cass County for all of eight months. He explored a run for governor in 1999.
Koster, 43, was an unofficial candidate for attorney general before he switched parties. His support of stem-cell research would have made it difficult for him to win in the Republican primary, however. Catherine Hanaway, a former Republican Speaker of the House, also was contemplating running for the position. (Hanaway later decided to stay out of the race.)
Kosters becoming a Democrat met with mixed reviews. He earned props for having the courage to call the far rights influence on the Republican Party toxic. At the same time, observers have wondered if he would have joined the Monarchy Party if it increased his chances of being elected to a higher office.
Id find Kosters conversion more convincing if, a few months earlier, he hadnt tossed meat to the nativist wing of the electorate and introduced legislation making it a crime to rent apartments to illegal immigrants. Koster also voted for the Medicaid cuts in 2005 that denied 100,000 people health care.
Koster says now that he regrets the Medicaid vote. But his explanation he told The Kansas City Star that he did not know the cuts would be so far-reaching might be worse than the deed itself. Which front-page story did you miss, Chris? The one headlined 89,000 Missourians would lose their coverage or the one accompanied by a melt-your-heart picture of a 2-year-old with spina bifida?