By Eli Yokley
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander said Saturday that he was, in fact, running for reelection in 2016.
The announcement, in an interview with The Missouri Times, came after some within the Democratic Party had privately speculated that he might pursue a campaign for attorney general, after the office’s current occupant, Chris Koster, said last month that he was preparing a gubernatorial campaign.
“I ran for secretary of state because I want to be secretary of state,” he said. “This is a great job and I hope people in a few years let me continue it. I’m doing everything I can to do this job as well as I possibly can.”
Kander, who won a close race against former Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Springfield, last November, said while common wisdom may suggest Missouri is trending a red state, he and others are looking to defy that trend with strong candidates and a united front.
“[State Auditor Tom] Schweich said Republicans need more competent candidates,” he said. “I believe they need better ideas.”
Kander and Koster were in Springfield during the weekend to participate in the Greene County Democratic Party’s annual Jackson Days event.
Speaking to supporters, Kander touted his efforts during his first 100 days to pursue early voting in Missouri, to expand an anti-discrimination policy in his office to gays and lesbians, and to ban lobbyist gifts to his staff.
The two officials also joined Gov. Jay Nixon’s ongoing call to expand Medicaid, as called for by the federal health care law. Koster, who has until now shied from talking about many public policy issues that are outside the scope of the attorney general’s office, spoke for nearly 30 minutes about his belief that the Democratic Party seeks a balance between “individual responsibility” and community action — an intersection where he believes expanding Medicaid to those hovering just above the poverty level to be.
“‘We the people,’” Koster said. “There is a break down in what those three words mean in Jefferson City.”
Koster said he believed expanding Medicaid, as well as educational opportunities for youth and assistance for the elderly in poverty, is part of a “basic bargain” in society that he feels should be protected. He also touted numbers from the University of Missouri that claim expanding Medicaid could be a boost to the State’s economy and job environment.
Aside from that, Koster, who won reelection in 2012 on the slogan, “All prosecutor, no politics,” said the Republican Party’s broad rejection of Medicaid expansion has less to do with policy and more to do with partisan politics.
“There is a stubborn anger,” Koster said, “for no other reason than Barack Obama’s name is attached to it.”
Koster criticized so-called “right to work,” claiming that restrictions on the rights of labor unions to collectively bargain “throw them under the bus” in terms of climbing the economic ladder.
While it is likely dead in the General Assembly this year, the “right to work” issue could reemerge next year as a ballot initiative. Even the Republican legislative plan calls for it to be placed before the voters.
Aside from a state auditor’s race, 2016 could be a big year for ballot initiatives, and as the state’s chief election officer, Kander would be responsible for writing it. Kander said his office is making an effort to rid language of a political bend.
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