For the first time in 16 years Missouri will have a new attorney general come next Tuesday.
Current Attorney General Jay Nixon, who was first elected in 1992 and has served since, is now running for governor against Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof.
Now, Senate President Michael Gibbons and party switcher Sen. Chris Koster, D-Cass County, are slugging it out in TV ads and on the campaign trial.
Gibbons, who has been on a bus tour of Missouri the last several days, was joined by fellow Republican Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, and Rep. Michael McGhee, R-Odessa. Gibbons said his tour will continue through Monday.
Gibbons’ speech to his supporters at times sounded like he was running against Nixon. Gibbons said that he wants to have a better relationship with prosecutors and that he won’t put the AG office in a position of having to answer questions about impropriety.
“I want to have a much better working relationship with prosecutors around the state, which hasn’t been the case under the current attorney general,” Gibbons said. “I think (Missourians) deserve an attorney general that refuses to accept campaign contributions from anybody we are investigating or prosecuting.”
Gibbons also called out his opponent for switching parties after winning his Senate seat in 2004. He said the move was based on his personal political agenda.
“I think there’s no question that someone who switches parties to run for a statewide office and changes their position on issues like going from pro-life to pro-choice is switching to a Democratic issue in a Democratic year,” Gibbons said.
Koster’s campaign defended his position by saying that he switched because he believes the Republican party is leaning too far to the right and has become the subjects of corporate rule. Campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said that throughout the campaign Koster has tried to spread a positive message. He says that Gibbons is behind in the polls and that is why he is using attacks against Koster.
“Sen. Koster switched parties because he believed the Republican Party under Gibbons’ leadership had become too beholden to corporate interest and the agenda of the extreme right,” Kanner said.
Kanner went on to say that Koster has more experience and pointed out that Gibbons does not have any relevant experience prosecuting and enforcing the law.
“The attorney general is the state’s top law enforcement officer and Chris spent a decade in law enforcement,” Kanner said. “He’s running because he’s qualified for the job.”
Gibbons’ response to Koster’s stance on experience is his ideas. Gibbons outlined his plans to create a cyber-crimes unit to help smaller counties and law enforcement prosecute cyber crimes. Gibbons also spoke about the need to go from number one in the country in meth use to number 50.
“I want to be in a position to let Moms and Dads out there know what is going on,” Gibbons said.
He went on to say that the AG office is more than just about prosecuting.
“It’s the chief legal office of the state,” Gibbons said. “It’s about dealing with issues such as agriculture, anti-trust issues, consumer protection and defending the state.”
Gibbons also pointed to his recent endorsement by The Kansas City Star. The paper said that although it did not agree with Gibbons on issues like stem cell research, it did think that Koster has personal political motivations.
“People know what his motivations are and I think The Kansas City Star got it right,” Gibbons said.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch endorsed Koster.
Photo: Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, and Senate President Michael Gibbons, R-Kirksville, shared a laugh with a small group of supporters in front of the Lafayette County Courthouse Thursday afternoon. It was just one of Gibbons’ tour stops on his bus tour across Missouri in his campaign for Attorney General. Gibbons is facing Sen. Chris Koster. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)