Missouri AG primary up in the air

Chris Rizo Aug. 5, 2008, 11:56pm

Chris Koster (D)

Margaret Donnelly (D)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) -The Missouri Democratic attorney general primary is too close to call, with state Rep. Margaret Donnelly and state Sen. Chris Koster each capturing 34 percent of Tuesday's vote.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Koster, D-Harrisonville, narrowly leads Donnelly by 854 votes out of 345,972 ballots cast.

Barring a recount, Koster would win the Democratic primary.

Donnelly, D-Richmond Heights, is said to be considering a potential recount, which would be allowed since the race would be decided by less than one percentage point.

Also running in the Democratic primary was state Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, who took 25 percent of the vote.

The winner of the Democratic primary will square off against Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Gibbons of Kirkwood in November's general election.

The candidates are vying to replace outgoing Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who is running for Missouri governor. Nixon has remained neutral in the Democratic contest, praising each of the candidates.

The Democratic primary turned rancorous after The Associated Press reported last month the Koster campaign allegedly told contributors who wished to donate more to Koster than state law allowed to make an additional donation to a group called the Economic Growth Council.

The Economic Growth Council then funneled the money it received into Koster's campaign coffers. Critics said the plan allowed Koster to avoid the state's $1,350 campaign contribution limits for individual donors.

Koster's campaign has said it has complied with the state's campaign finance laws.

A complaint is pending before the state Ethics Commission.

Then reports emerged showing that Koster's ex-wife gave $200,000 to a political action committee, Missourians for Honest Leadership, to bankroll attack ads critical of her ex-husband, a Republican-turned-Democrat.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday night at the Teamsters Hall in Kansas City, Koster thanked his Democratic allies for his win.

"I came looking for a tent that was big and inclusive, that was progressive and heartfelt," he said. "A party that could stand up for the voiceless, govern toward the general welfare, and yet would compete aggressively on the battlefields of law enforcement, low taxes and economic development."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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